Agriculture Secretary Announces Historic Agreements for US-Cuba
SAN JUAN – As part of President Obama’s trip to Cuba to further normalization of relations, advance commercial and people-to-people ties, and express U.S. support for human rights, Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Monday several measures that will foster further collaboration between the U.S. and Cuban agriculture sectors.
While in Cuba, Vilsack announced that the USDA will allow the 22 industry-funded Research and Promotion Programs and 18 Marketing Order organizations to conduct research and information exchange activities with Cuba. These groups, which are responsible for creating bonds with consumers and businesses around the world in support of U.S. agriculture, will be able to engage in cooperative research and information exchanges with Cuba about agricultural productivity, food security and sustainable natural resource management. Vilsack called the announcement “a significant step forward in strengthening our bond and broadening agricultural trade between the United States and Cuba.”
During their bilateral meeting today, Vilsack and Cuban Minister of Agriculture Gustavo Rodríguez Rollero will sign a memorandum of understanding that establishes a framework for sharing ideas and research between the two countries. Vilsack also has invited Rodríguez to join on a visit to one of USDA’s Climate Sub Hubs in Puerto Rico in late May, where USDA researchers are studying the effects of climate change in the subtropical region and strategies for mitigating these effects.
“Recognizing the importance of agriculture in the United States and Cuba, USDA is advancing a new partnership for the 21st century between our two countries,” said Vilsack. “U.S. producers are eager to help meet Cuba’s need for healthy, safe, nutritious food.
“The agreements we reached with our Cuban counterparts on this historic trip, and the ability for our agriculture sector leaders to communicate with Cuban businesses, will help U.S. agricultural interests better understand the Cuban market, while also providing the Cuban people with science-based information as they grow their own agriculture sector,” he stated.
The visit to the Puerto Rico Sub Hub would allow USDA and Cuba’s Ministry of Agriculture to exchange information on climate change as it relates to tropical forestry and agriculture, and explore opportunities for collaboration. The two officials would be able to explore tools and strategies to cope with challenges associated with climate change, such as drought, heat stress, excessive moisture, longer growing seasons, and changes in pest pressure.
The Puerto Rico hub is part of the USDA Regional Climate Hub network that supports applied research and provides information to farmers, ranchers, advisers, and managers to inform climate-related decision making.
While most U.S. commercial activities are prohibited, the Trade Sanctions Reform Act (TSRA) of 2000 permits the export of U.S. agricultural commodities, though U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba are limited by U.S. restrictions on government export assistance, cash payments, and extending credit. U.S. agricultural exports have grown significantly since trade was authorized in 2000.
In 2014, Cuba imported over $2 billion in agricultural products including $300 million from the United States. However, from 2014 to 2015, U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba fell 48 percent to $148.9 million, the lowest since 2002, giving the United States just a 10 percent market share as Cuba’s fourth largest agricultural supplier, behind the EU, Brazil, and Argentina.