U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Robin Bernstein toured NCBA CLUSA’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded Safe Agriculture/Food Export (SAFE) project last month, observing first-hand the impact of the $16.2 million effort to improve the competitiveness of the Dominican beef and dairy value chains.
Known locally as Progana, the project is working to improve agricultural productivity in the Dominican Republic’s livestock sector. The project is also building a culture of food safety to ultimately achieve equivalence with U.S. import standards, paving the way for the Dominican Republic to export beef to U.S. territories.
During her visit, Ambassador Bernstein learned how the SAFE project is increasing the quality of milk produced by Dominican farmers and got an overview of the training programs and demonstration farms the project is using to educate a new generation of highly skilled livestock farmers.
In Dajabón, a province along the border with Haiti, Ambassador Bernstein visited the San Ignacio de Loyola Technological Institute (ITESIL), an educational institution training young people in one of the country’s poorest areas. Ambassador Bernstein was impressed with the facility’s capacities, including a laboratory that has been assisted by the SAFE project, and showed interest in their request for implementing a new food processing plant and building new classrooms.
“I was greatly encouraged to observe the excellent work that the USDA-funded Progana program is doing at the San Ignacio de Loyola Technological Institute,” Ambassador Bernstein said. “The students who attend this beautiful school are learning solid agricultural practices that will provide a strong base for a more successful future. It is programs such as these that will help lift the economic and social welfare of this region of the country. I look forward to seeing these efforts bear fruit in the years to come.”
Ambassador Bernstein also observed a bull evaluation conducted by Dr. Jorge Bolaños, the project’s Genetics and Reproduction Specialist. Bull evaluations are key to the success of the country’s dairy industry, gathering data on bulls’ health and fertility. Using a portable microscope, lab results are available immediately on the farm. Bull evaluations conducted by the project over the past year have yielded alarming results, indicating that 59 percent of the bulls tested are not suitable for reproduction. Thanks to the widespread bull evaluations, coupled with training activities, many farmers in the Dominican Republic now understand the importance of evaluating bulls to ensure the profitability and sustainability of their farms.
Also in the Dajabón province last month, USDA Senior Agriculture Attaché Elizabeth Autry visited the Santiago Rodriguez Livestock Farmers Association, which has received a matching grant of USD $41,000 (for a total investment of USD $82,000) to support the installation of solar panels at their Milk Collection Center. The solar panels have reduced the association’s energy consumption by 60 percent and stabilized their energy supply. Frequent power outages and the high cost of electricity in the region had made it challenging to maintain adequate milk cold storage that meets food safety standards.
Cesáreo Guillermo, director of Progana, said the recent visits emphasize the U.S.’s longterm bilateral commitment to the Dominican Republic, particularly its effort to develop not only the region’s beef and dairy value chains, but also its youth. “The visit increases the project’s visibility within the embassy and U.S. diplomatic corps and demonstrates the successful impact that USDA’s investments have had on the region’s youth and livestock sector through NCBA CLUSA’s leadership,” Guillermo said.
Learn more about NCBA CLUSA’s USDA-funded Safe Agriculture Food Export project.