Historic Visit By Cuba Delegation

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In a historic trip, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and the Agriculture Minister of Cuba Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero was in Iowa as part of a delegation.

It's the third official visit from Cuba, the third meeting between agriculture secretaries, and the first visit to Iowa by a Cuban official since July 2004. Then it was a veterinarian to open up the U.S. red meat industry.

The Cuban Delegation toured four agricultural locations in central Iowa.

Vilsack says, "There is a tremendous opportunity for us to have a solid relationship between our two countries beginning with agriculture"

In the first stop of the day, Vilsack and Rollero met at the DuPont Pioneer facility in Johnston, Iowa.

There they toured the Mendel Automated Greenhouse. Rollero spoke with DuPont Pioneer President Paul Schickler about the history of the company, how their seeds are used today, and what the future looks like. Rollero asked about on-farm trials and Pioneer test plots.

Inside, both heads of agriculture saw conveyor belts moving half-grown, potted corn plants around in a greenhouse and controlled environment automatically measuring and taking pictures of the plants. Before talking for half an hour on an observation deck.

The delegation then moved to an organic farm in Polk City to meet with farmer Aaron Lehman.

Lehman says, "It was obvious from our conversation that farming is a constant learning process. We're consistently evolving on our farm and I think on every farm in Iowa."

The heads of agriculture and Lehman talked about the premiums of organic agriculture and how encouraging that could be beneficial to Cuba and the U.S.

Vilsack says there's a lot Cuba can do. Back in 2015, he visited a Cuban organic farm.

He says, "There is so much common between us in agriculture: a belief in science, a concern about small farmers, sustainable production, renewable energy, assistance from government."

Rollero looks at the science as well, earlier in 2016, he and Vilsack signed a Memorandum of Understanding and many of the agreements in it has a focus on science and technology.

Enforcing that, the Cuban visit included a trip to DuPont Pioneer, Iowa State University, and an ethanol facility.

Rollero says, "A country like ours, which is committed itself to developing and to growing its agricultural development, cannot do so without taking into account scientific advances and the contributions of technology and science to agriculture."