Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined President Obama on his trip to Cuba this week to celebrate the beginning of normalized relations between the two countries. While there, Vilsack announced several measures designed to foster further collaboration between the U.S. and Cuban agriculture sectors, including allowing U.S. checkoff programs to conduct authorized research and exchange information with Cuba.

On Monday, Vilsack said the Department of Agriculture will allow the 22 industry-funded Research and Promotion Programs, including the U.S. fluid milk processor program, and 18 Marketing Order organizations to conduct research and share data with Cuba on agricultural productivity, food security and sustainable natural resource management. The two countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish the framework for sharing ideas and research.

“Cuba is a natural market for the products made by U.S. dairy companies,” said Connie Tipton, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association. “We look forward to working with Secretary Vilsack and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to further explore this potential new market.”

Read more comments from food and agriculture leaders here.

New Measures and Activities

USDA said the new measures will allow the United States to participate in the following activities:   

  • Provide nutritional research and guidance, as well as participate with the Cuban government and industry officials, at meetings regarding nutrition and related Cuban rules and regulations;
  • Conduct plate waste study research in schools to determine what kids eat and what they discard;
  • Provide the findings of U.S.-based market, consumer, nutrition and environmental research to Cuban government and industry officials;
  • Research the role of commodities in a nutritious diet that improves health or lowers the risk of chronic diseases;
  • Test recipes and specific products among Cuban consumers, with the goal of increasing product development and acceptance; and
  • Conduct consumer tracking studies to measure attitudes when it comes to a specific commodity and consumption and to identify consumer groups based on their behavior, attitudes and purchasing habits for a particular commodity.

In 2014, Cuba imported over $2 billion in agricultural products including $300 million from the United States. However, from 2014 to 2015, U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba fell 48 percent to $148.9 million, the lowest since 2002, giving the United States just a 10 percent market share as Cuba's fourth largest agricultural supplier, behind the European Union, Brazil and Argentina.

For more information, contact Beth Hughes, IDFA director of international affairs, at