Food and Ag Groups Express Optimism for New Opportunities in Cuba

Taylor Hillman Industry News Release

Leaders from across the U.S. agriculture and food sectors are expressing support and optimism in new opportunities for collaboration with their Cuban counterparts, announced during President Obama’s historic visit to the island.

The two neighboring countries share common climate and agriculture related concerns, and the measures announced today in Havana will mutually benefit the Cuban people and U.S. farmers and ranchers.

While in Cuba with President Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA 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. These groups 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, they will be able to engage in cooperative research and information exchanges with Cuba about agricultural productivity, food security and sustainable natural resource management. Secretary Vilsack called the announcement “a significant step forward in strengthening our bond and broadening agricultural trade between the United States and Cuba.”

As food and agriculture groups continue to review today’s announcement, they expressed their support in the following statements:

Statement by American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall

“American-grown foods hold a clear competitive advantage in the Cuban marketplace, and the use of farmer- and rancher-generated funds to promote and market U.S. farm goods fits the checkoff mission perfectly. This announcement by USDA represents a major boost in growing the Cuban market that sits just 90 miles off our coast. I want to personally thank USDA and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack for the support shown America’s farmers and ranchers in this matter.”

Statement by Joel G. Newman, President & CEO, American Feed Industry Association (AFIA)

“AFIA is pleased with Secretary Vilsack’s announcement today that USDA will allow Research and Promotion Programs and Marketing Order activities in Cuba. This is the first step to the U.S. industry better understanding the Cuban market and to sharing vital information and expertise with Cuba on agriculture production. Once existing regulatory and financial hurdles and restrictions have been lifted, this foundation of knowledge sharing and relationship building will serve in providing greater opportunities for U.S. feed and pet food products to Cuba.”

Statement by Richard Wilkins, President, American Soybean Association (ASA)

“Today’s announcement is a big step forward in terms of expanding the Cuban marketplace for U.S. soy. The important thing to remember about checkoff funds is that they’re farmer dollars–they belong to producers to do with as best they see fit to grow their industries. Because this is the farmers’ money, it’s only logical that we as farmers ought to be able to use it to expand whatever markets we see as the most promising for our individual commodities.”

Statement by Daryl Cates, Chairman, Illinois Soybean Growers

“This is great news. We really appreciate everything Secretary Vilsack and the USDA staff did to make using checkoff dollars in Cuba a reality. Cuba is an important market for Illinois soybean farmers and the livestock producers who use our soybeans. It’s vital that we collaborate on exchanging information about our product with Cuban government and industry officials. We look forward to advancing two-way trade with the Cuban people and fostering relationships.”

Statement by Connie Tipton, President & CEO, International Dairy Foods Association

“Cuba is a natural market for the products made by U.S. dairy companies. We look forward to working with Secretary Vilsack and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to further explore this potential new market.”

Statement by Leigh Allen, Executive Director, National Black Growers Council

“The National Black Growers Council (NBGC) is pleased that U.S. research & promotion boards will now be able to engage in an exchange with the Cuban growers and people to allow for dialogue and open information exchange. As an immediate neighbor of the United States of America, it is mutually beneficial that the strong agricultural industries in both countries share a common interest as it relates to food, fuel, and fiber of these commodities and their by-products. We commend the action and efforts of President Barack Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and others such as the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba for bringing this to fruition. I am encouraged that the R&P boards, which in part has sustained American agriculture as a global leader, will now be able to be utilized by our counterparts in Cuba and vice versa. The NBGC looks forward to working closely with the R&P Boards and respective parties within the Cuban Ag sector in the near future to achieve this goal.”

Statement by Roger Johnson, president, National Farmers Union (NFU)

“NFU fully supports the use of all tools available to normalize relations and fair trade with Cuba. As such, we appreciate AMS’ decision to allow checkoff programs to use their resources for the promotion of American agricultural products to a market of 11 million people just 90 miles away from American shores.”

Statement by National Grain and Feed Association

“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.”

Statement by Brian King, Chairman of the USA Rice Western Hemisphere Promotions Subcommittee

“The announcement today, like the White House announcements on liberalized travel from last week, continues the momentum toward normalized commercial relations with Cuba. We are looking forward to a USDA presence at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.”

Statement by Devry Boughner Vorwerk, Chair, U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC)

“U.S. Agriculture Coalition is proud to be on the ground in Cuba in tandem with USDA continuing to forge industry to industry partnerships during the President Obama’s historic visit. We applaud Secretary Vilsack for his leadership on advancing US-Cuba agricultural relations and are pleased that the two countries have signed a groundbreaking MOU in agriculture. We are especially pleased that farmer-funded checkoff dollars can now be used to facilitate relationships in country. USACC continues to support USDA’s effort to place staff on the ground in Cuba.”