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Be Careful In Cuba

Written by Dennis Sun

     For a number of years, our government has tried to improve our relationship with Cuba, and agriculture issues have been one of the leading topics in discussions. I’m not sure that I understand all the political issues, but I do realize Cuba is still a communist country. There are a lot human rights issues going on down there, and the government has not liked America for many years. But, if we can help the people of Cuba improve their standard of living and establish some markets for our agriculture industries, maybe it’s a good thing. I don’t imagine one can find too many choice rib steaks down there.

I’ve read that leaders from across the U.S. agriculture and food sectors are expressing support and optimism in new opportunities for working with their Cuban counterparts, announced during our President’s recent visit to the island. Our two countries do share a common climate – if we don’t include our Wyoming weather, and agriculture-related concerns. Those measures announced during the visit in Havana will hopefully mutually benefit both the Cuban people and U.S. farmers and ranchers.

While in Cuba with the President, United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will allow 22 industry-funded research and promotion programs and 18 marketing order organizations to conduct authorized research and information exchange activities with Cuba. These groups, representing American beef, pork, corn, soybean products and other commodities, are responsible for creating bonds with consumers and businesses around the world in support of U.S. agriculture.

A number of food and agriculture groups are watching this agreement really closely, and most have expressed their support. We are glad for that support, as Americans and as Christians. We always do help people, and we should in this case, but the trick is how we can help the people and not the socialistic government – a government that has really oppressed its people and caused them to risk their lives trying to leave their country. I’m also sure Florida doesn’t want a large number of Cuban immigrants at this time. Cuba can’t even feed its own people now. How do we help them when they are so poor? I understand they do have good doctors and medical help, but in terms of agriculture, it is going to take a lot of education and some good loans. A strong dollar will not help that though.

They have to have some good mechanics down there. Have you seen all the old 1950s American cars that are still running around? Maybe we could trade the Cubans vintage cars, mechanics, rum and cigars for food. They could come to America like sheepherders or sheep shearers do. The Cuban people are really self-reliant. They can’t just run down and buy parts, especially for American cars.

Also how do we help them without some good trade agreements? We don’t want to show them our ag expertise and then have them undercut us by selling our products back to us. I can see this happening with sugar, in particular. Sugar cane is one of their major crops. If they modernize their production, we can’t let them hurt our sugarbeet farmers or our sugar industry. There have to be ways to help both countries. Long-term, that could be an issue.

We wish well for the Cuban people. They have been through hell for many years. They deserve a chance to live their lives for themselves, not for their government.