"Agriculture is a bridge for cooperation between U.S. and Cuba", Agriculture Secretary says

Posted: 21-Dec-15 17:24

U.S Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack recently visited a local market and a cooperative farm in Cuba, as part of a wider programme aimed to expand opportunities for U.S. farmers and ranchers to do business in the island. It marks the first official visit of a political figure in this position that Cuba has received since 1961.

"Agriculture is a bridge for cooperation between U.S. and Cuba", Agriculture Secretary says

As other American public figures have recently done when travelling to Cuba - no matter what the purpose of their visits is - the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack spent a significant part of his time in the island talking to ordinary people on the street.

While visiting a market in Havana and a farm in Güira de Melena, Artemisa, he asked locals about the conditions of production and distribution of agricultural goods and their availability to the population in those areas.

As part of his visit to the market, Vilsack inquired sellers about the variety and prices of vegetables and fruits. When visiting a farm, the American politician walked around crops of “malanga” and he also sat on the wheel of an old tractor.

The presence of the U.S. representative in Cuba is taken as a good sign among locals, who are expecting to improve their work conditions and productivity with the arrival of new equipment and supplies from the U.S. in the coming months.

But the embargo remains as an imposing barrier for the development of Cuban agriculture, as it doesn’t allow free commercial exchange between both countries, even when U.S. food sales to the island have been permitted since 2001.

While Vilsack’s main goal in Cuba was to prepare the ground for future commercial exchange between his country and the Caribbean nation, he also conveyed that it was on his interest to ensure the lift of the embargo and the possibility to have a “two-way trade”.

In a statement published in the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, the American politician also spoke about the role of agriculture in an expanding cooperation, understanding and exchange of ideas among people.

Vilsack also made reference to President Barack Obama's willingness to lift the embargo and to go further in the negotiations with Cuba before he leaves office next year.

He also declared that Obama´s government is pushing hard to try and eliminate restrictions on cash transactions between Cuba and the U.S.

During his visit, the U.S. politician also held meetings with Cuban Agriculture Minister, Gustavo Rodríguez Rollero and with one of the vice presidents of the Cuban Ministry Council (Consejo de Ministros), Ricardo Cabrisas.

Vilsack arrived in Havana accompanied by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), and three members of the House of Representatives: Terri Sewell (D-Alabama), Susan DelBene (D-Washington) and Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon).

The Secretary of Agriculture thus became the latest US government figure to arrive in Havana, following in the footsteps of the Secretary of State, John Kerry, and more recently the Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker. The US special envoy for the Fight against Climate Change, Todd Stern, and Alejandro Mayorkas, Sub-secretary of Homeland Security, also paid visits to Cuba in recent weeks.


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