Mar 21, 2016
HAVANA, CUBA -- Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who is traveling with President Obama on his historic visit to Cuba this week, announced today that agricultural commodity groups receiving funding from federal check-offs or U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Marketing Orders for research and promotion activities are now able to use their resources in preparing for normalized trade with the country. USA Rice promotion activities were not impacted by today’s announcement because, when conducting promotion activities in Cuba, USA Rice uses state-generated resources that are not subject to federal check-off restrictions.
The U.S. government is still barred from spending appropriated funds, including Market Access Programs (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD), on promotion programs in Cuba.
Prior to his departure, USA Rice armed Secretary Vilsack with rice industry priorities for trade with Cuba including allowing U.S. financial institutions to extend credit to Cuban entities and support for USDA reallocating funding to staff a Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) desk in Havana.
“The announcement today, like the White House announcements on liberalized travel from last week, continues the momentum toward normalized commercial relations with Cuba,” said Brian King, chairman of the USA Rice Western Hemisphere Promotions Subcommittee. “We are looking forward to a USDA presence at the U.S. Embassy in Havana. But there is much more to be done, and we need to Congress to take action to remove the embargo once and for all.”
While in Havana, Vilsack has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Cuban Minister of Agriculture Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero, establishing a framework for sharing research between the two countries.