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Vilsack: Relationship with Cuba begins with agriculture

Staff writer |
The path to normalized relations between the United States and Cuba made a stop in farm country Friday.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and his Cuban counterpart, Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero, toured Aaron Lehman’s corn and soybean farm in central Iowa. They talked about water, soil, and energy and compared strategies for managing hog manure, which has been a problem in Iowa, Amy Mayer writes for kcur.org.

Vilsack said he hopes Cuba can increasingly be an export market for farm products like soybeans, rice and, eventually, poultry.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for us to have a solid relationship between our two countries,” Vilsack said, “beginning with agriculture.”

Congress has the ultimate authority to revoke the embargo the U.S. has had against Cuba for decades, but the Obama administration has been chipping away at the long-strained relationship. Vilsack said increased connections between the countries, including an agreement signed between the agriculture departments, is boosting America’s image in Latin America and elsewhere.

“This has been positively received by other countries,” Vilsack said. “It creates a greater credibility for the U.S. that we reach out to Cuba.”

Cuba recently accepted a 20-ton shipment of rice grown in Missouri. Cuba is an important ally for the U.S. on some hot-button international agriculture issues, such as food safety and animal health regulations, Vilsack said.

Read the original story here.

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