The heads of four national U.S. poultry and egg organizations are leading a delegation representing the poultry, egg and U.S. soybean industries to Cuba for a fact-finding trade mission Sept. 27-30.

Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council; Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council; Joel Brandenberger, president of the National Turkey Federation, and Anne Alonzo, president and CEO of the American Egg Board, are among the group on the Cuba mission.

Also among the delegates are Blair Van Zetten of Oskaloosa Foods, who is currently serving as AEB chairman; Joel Coleman of Butterball, past chairman of USAPEEC; and Mark Hickman of Peco Foods, past chairman of NCC.

The multi-commodity mission is the first foray into Cuba funded entirely by the soybean checkoff program since the U.S. began normalizing relations with the country earlier this year.

In March, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that USDA would permit 22 industry-funded agricultural research and promotion programs to use checkoff funds to conduct authorized research and information-exchange activities in Cuba.

Since the U.S. government authorized limited exports of U.S. agricultural products to Cuba in 2000, it has become the fourth-leading export destination for U.S. poultry by volume. Also, the poultry and egg industry consumes more than half of the soybean meal produced in the U.S.

The Illinois Soybean Association checkoff program and the Iowa Soybean Association, funded by the soybean checkoff, are backing the mission, which is focusing on assessing the potential for greater U.S. agricultural trade as relations between the U.S. and Cuba continue to develop.

While in Cuba, the delegation is meeting with representatives from the Cuban poultry, egg and soybean industries to gain a greater understanding of Cuba’s food distribution system and to discuss issues such as biosecurity, food safety and nutrition.

The delegation also includes representatives of U.S. poultry and egg companies, cold storage and logistics providers, shipping lines, and export trading companies. Both the Illinois and Iowa soybean groups have several delegates taking part in the Cuba mission.