On the heels of President Obama’s historic trip to Cuba this week—marking nearly 90 years since a sitting president visited the island nation—USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced several measures that will foster further collaboration between the US and Cuban agriculture sectors.
“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,” Vilsack says. "US producers are eager to help meet Cuba’s need for healthy, safe, nutritious food.”
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, which are responsible for creating bonds with consumers and businesses around the world in support of US 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 and Cuban Minster of Agriculture Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero will sign a Memorandum of Understanding that establishes a framework for sharing ideas and research between the two countries.
Examples of activities that may take place include the following:
-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.
-Conduct plate waste study research in schools to determine what kids eat and what they discard, leading to improved nutritional information that helps develop the guidance for school meal requirements, ensuring kids are getting adequate nutrition to be successful in school.
-Provide US based market, consumer, nutrition and environmental research findings to Cuban government and industry officials.
-Research commodities’ role in a nutritious diet that improves health or lowers the risk of chronic diseases.
-Study the efficacy of water disinfectants to eliminate/inactivate bacteria on commodities.
-Test recipes and specific products amongst Cuban consumers of all ages, with the goal of increasing product development and acceptance.
-Conduct consumer tracking studies to measure attitudes when it comes to a specific commodity and consumption and to identify consumer groups based on their behavior, attitudes, and purchasing habits for a particular commodity.
While most US commercial activities are prohibited, the Trade Sanctions Reform Act (TSRA) of 2000 permits the export of US agricultural commodities, though US agricultural exports to Cuba are limited by US restrictions on government export assistance, cash payments, and extending credit. US 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, US 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.