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DES MOINES, IA -- On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced during the National Governors Association Summer Meeting here that USDA would officially be sending a temporary detail to Havana, Cuba, later this year.
USDA's announcement came following $1.5 million in funding for such a position included in the Senate's Fiscal Year 2017 agriculture funding bill. The position, part of USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), would be the first step to providing U.S. agricultural interests with real-time logistics of the Cuban agriculture industry.
USA Rice and 65 other agricultural organizations and businesses sent a letter to Congress on April 8 calling for increased funding specifically to accommodate the USDA personnel in Cuba. The letter emphasized the importance of having staff in country, saying, "...funding these USDA positions in Cuba in anticipation of an eventual lifting of the embargo will help to make the transition process run more efficiently, assist U.S. agribusinesses to regain the role as Cuba's top exporter, and advance U.S. agricultural interests."