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Ag groups support USDA’s Cuba decision

U.S. farm groups and food companies have their disagreements, sometimes big ones. But a wide array of agriculturalists support increasing American ag exports to Cuba -- and now they have more tools with which to do it.

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Cuba news.

U.S. farm groups and food companies have their disagreements, sometimes big ones. But a wide array of agriculturalists support increasing American ag exports to Cuba - and now they have more tools with which to do it.

Ten organizations, ranging from the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union to the National Black Growers Council and National Grain and Feed Association, on Tuesday issued a joint news release praising a decision by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that could enhance ag exports to Cuba.

Vilsack, who’s in Cuba with President Obama on a historic trade trade to the island-nation, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture now will allow the 22 industry-funded research and promotion programs and 18 marketing order organizations to conduct authorized research and information exchange activities with Cuba.

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The 40 programs and organizations represent U.S. beef, pork, corn soy and other commodities, and are “responsible for creating bonds with consumers and businesses around the world in support of U.S. agriculture. Following today's announcement (by Vilsack), they will be able to engage in cooperative research and information exchanges with Cuba about agricultural productivity, food security and sustainable natural resource management,” according to USDA.

USDA gives these examples of activities that could take place:

  • Provide nutritional research and guidance, as well as participate with the Cuban government and industry officials, at meetings regarding nutrition and related Cuban rules and regulations.

  • Provide U.S.-based market, consumer, nutrition and environmental research findings to Cuban government and industry officials.

  • Test recipes and specific products amongst Cuban consumers of all ages, with the goal of increasing product development and acceptance.

"U.S. producers are eager to help meet Cuba's need for healthy, safe, nutritious food,” Vilsack says in a USDA statement. “Research and promotion and marketing order programs have a long history of conducting important research that supports producers by providing information about a commodity's nutritional benefits and identifying new uses for various commodities.”

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Ag exports to Communist Cuba, just 90 miles from U.S. shores, are limited now because of the U.S. trade embargo, which Congress would need to lift. It’s uncertain if and when that will happen, although farm groups hope Congress will do so sooner rather than later. They call Vilsack’s decision a helpful step in the process.

The National Grain and Feed Association says this in the joint release:

"The NGFA believes strongly in normalizing agricultural trade relations with Cuba, including arrangements under which Cuba can finance its purchases of U.S. agricultural products on normal commercial terms. While full normalization of trade ultimately will require congressional action, the steps announced today by Secretary Vilsack to promote cooperative research and information exchange activities with Cuba are another positive step forward along the journey to that ultimate destination."

The other six groups that issued the joint statement  are the American Feed Industry Association, American Soybean Association, Illinois Soybean Growers, International Dairy Foods Association, USA Rice Western Hemisphere Promotions Subcommittee and the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba.

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