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US, Cuba Agriculture Top Officials to Visit Puerto Rico in May

By on March 24, 2016

SAN JUAN —  U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Cuba Agriculture Minister Gustavo Rodríguez would be visiting Puerto Rico in late May, an opportunity for the local agriculture sector to insert itself in potential projects between the two countries, said Héctor Cordero, president of the Puerto Rico Farmers Association.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

During the recent historic visit to Cuba by President Barack Obama and a host of government officials, the U.S. Agriculture Department’s (USDA) Vilsack invited Rodríguez to visit the USDA Caribbean Climate Sub Hub — a federal climatological investigation center in Río Piedras, where researchers are studying the effects of climate change in the subtropical region and strategies for mitigating these effects.

Vilsack and Rodríguez signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at sharing ideas and research between the U.S. and Cuba.

Cordero believes recent developments are  “an opportunity for our agricultural sector to become an ambassador to the insertion process of the U.S. into Cuba, since we speak the same language, our cultures are similar and we share a common history.” Moreover, the local farmers association has already begun talks with the American Farm Bureau Federation to include Puerto Rico in future projects with Cuba.

According to an USDA statement released this week, the visit to the Puerto Rico Sub Hub would allow for the exchange of information on climate change as it relates to tropical forestry and agriculture, and explore opportunities for collaboration.

“From an agricultural point of view, our food basket is more similar to Cuba’s than the U.S., so it is logical to use Puerto Rico as a direct link between the U.S. and Cuba, and is a participation that we should seek,” Cordero noted.

The Puerto Rico hub is part of a USDA network that supports applied research and provides information to farmers, ranchers, advisors and managers to inform climate-related decision making. The agriculture and forestry sectors in the Caribbean are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change and the local hub is specifically focused on addressing these unique challenges and supporting the people and institutions involved in tropical forestry and agriculture.

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