A diverse agricultural group is urging Congress to provide funding so USDA staff can be located in Cuba to help U.S. agriculture deal with issues they face in that market. The group in a letter to the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees says, “Providing USDA boots on the ground in Cuba will help to provide U.S. agribusinesses the opportunity to obtain commodity market supply and demand figures, support the marketing efforts of U.S. exporters, assist in resolving phytosanitary barriers, and safeguard U.S. agriculture from the threat of new pests and diseases.”
USDA’s proposed FY ’17 budget includes funding for USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service employees to be housed within the U.S. Embassy in Cuba. U.S. agriculture is facing greater competition from the European Union, Asia and South America for the Cuban market. The U.S. now ranks fourth in agricultural exports to Cuba.
Cuba currently imports up to 80 of its food needs with an annual value of $2 billion. Those signing the letter included the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, American Soybean Association, Livestock Exporters of the U.S., National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Milk Producers Federation, North American Meat Institute, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and USA Rice.