Vermont expects to send its first shipment of dairy cattle to Cuba early next year as part of a trade agreement.
Agriculture Secretary Steve Kerr traveled to the island nation for a week in early September to help fine-tune an estimated $7 million deal for Vermont companies to sell dairy cattle, nonfat powdered milk and apples to Cuba.
Vermont’s products are high quality, Kerr said recently. “If we can be competitive, there’s no reason not to compete successfully and have a share of the sales.”
Kerr’s visit followed a trip by Vermont Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie in April to find out what Vermont products the Cubans might want.
The heifers are expected to head to Cuba in the first quarter of 2005.
Details of the powdered milk and apple deals are still being worked out, Kerr said.
The cattle include 50 Holstein and 50 Jersey heifers. They must be registered with papers, as required by Cuban policy in the wake of the discovery a BSE-infected cow in the United States in December 2003, said Gerardo Quaassdorff of Holstein Association USA, based in Brattleboro.
The deal will benefit both the Vermont farmers, who raise the heifers, and the Cubans, who will get top class genes for their herd, Quaassdorff said.
It also will set the stage for “a strong commercial relationship between Vermont and Cuba,” he said, adding that he hopes the first shipment of animals will lead to more in the future.
With the agreement, Vermont joins a growing list of state and corporate entities trying to break into a neighboring market that U.S. policy closed for decades. Kirby Jones, a Washington, D.C.-based trade consultant, estimates at least a dozen states have sent official delegations to Cuba to test the waters.
“It’s a good market and Cubans have dollars to spend,” Jones said. Trade will continue to grow, he added.