Agribusiness Report: Cuba delegation explores ag science and technology

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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- In a historic delegation to Iowa by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and the Cuban Minister of Agriculture Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero, science and technology were big topics.

And it started out on a local level according to Vilsack, "The questions the minister asked could have easily been asked by me to his farmers it is universal that's why we entered into a Memorandum of Understanding."

After spending half a day at a DuPont Pioneer automated greenhouse and an organic farm, the Cuban Delegation headed to Iowa State University to the Seed Science Building.

Rollero says you can't have agriculture development without advancing technology and science, which is agreed on by the Memorandum, "First and most important is the issue of seeds and phytogenetic resources. This is the basis for the development of agriculture. There won't ever be a farmer who can improve his production if he doesn't improve his seeds."

At Iowa State, the delegation talked about research and how that looks from the Department of Agriculture perspective.

Rollero talked about the importance of teaching future leaders, and asked how Iowa State does that.

The group then participated in a farmer roundtable.

Rollero says, "We've decided as well to cooperate as well in the area of technological assistance and exchanges and science."

To look at value-added agriculture by technology, the Cuban Delegation headed to it's final stop in Iowa: the Lincolnway Energy facility in Story County.

Vilsack says without ethanol, seed companies wouldn't want to make better corn. He says ethanol stabilizes corn prices, exports, reduces dependence on foreign oil and has beneficial byproducts.

The ethanol facility leaders say biofuel could be made with any plant, which Rollero could look into.

Vilsack says, "It emphasizes the diversity of opportunity that agriculture presents and I think it will give him an opportunity to figure out ways, which we can, more closely, interact in the future."

Close interactions may still take a while. The trade embargo with Cuba is still ongoing, despite multiple visits by leaders to both countries.

Vilsack is optimistic Congress will normalize relations, "We are currently hampered by federal legislation that makes it more difficult for us to have that solid relationship. I sincerely hope that at some point in time in the near future, Congress sees the wisdom of ending the embargo allowing us to have a even closer relationship."