ST. PAUL — Lt. Governor Tina Smith announced that a bipartisan delegation from Minnesota will visit Cuba this week to help Minnesota farmers tap demand in Cuba for imported agricultural products. During the historic visit, Lt. Governor Smith and members of the delegation will meet with officials from the Cuban Ministries of Agriculture and Foreign Affairs, tour local farm operations, and visit with staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“Accessing new markets in Cuba is a tremendous opportunity for Minnesota agriculture producers. Cuba annually imports approximately 80 percent of its food and agricultural products,” said Lt. Governor Smith. “I thank the delegates from across Minnesota’s agricultural industry for participating in this trade mission. I am confident it will lead to new opportunities and continued economic growth for Minnesotans.”
In addition to Lt. Governor Smith, other delegates participating in the trade mission include: State Senator Julie Rosen, Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson, Minnesota Corn Growers Association President Harold Wolle Jr., Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap, Minnesota Dry Bean Research and Promotion Council Member James Zenk, University of Minnesota Extension Dean Beverly Durgan, Evan Berquist from Cozen O’Connor, and Erica Boyum from CHS Prairie Lakes.
“Doing business with Cuba means more jobs for Minnesota and is good for the country,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar.“American farmers and businesses export about $300 million in agricultural products to Cuba each year—by passing my bipartisan bill to lift the trade embargo, that number could triple. We need to be expanding engagement with Cuba, not rolling back the progress that has been made over the last few years.”
“Especially at a time when farm commodity prices remain low, we need to continue to find new export opportunities for Minnesota farmers,” said Agriculture Commissioner Frederickson. “In particular, Minnesota’s corn, soybean and dry edible bean producers could benefit from stronger ties with Cuba which relies heavily on food and agricultural imports.”
“Minnesota farmers produce healthy, high quality food and agricultural products. We are looking forward to sharing our products and expertise with the people of Cuba,” said Kevin Paap, President, Minnesota Farm Bureau. “Thank you to the Lt. Governor Smith and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for leading this trade mission to strengthen our relationships and to create new economic opportunities for Minnesota farmers.”
“Minnesota’s 24,000 corn farmers annually export about $940 million worth of corn to foreign markets,” said Harold Wolle, Jr., President, Minnesota Corn Growers Association. “This trip to Cuba is a great opportunity to connect with new consumers and develop new markets for Minnesota-grown corn.”
“Minnesota is a top five state for dry bean production – annually growing 10 percent of all dry beans in the United States. Approximately 20 percent are exported,” said James Zenk, Council Member, Minnesota Dry Bean Research and Promotion Council. “Cuba consumes about 100,000 metric tons of dry beans each year. That’s a significant market for us. We look forward to sharing our products with Cuban consumers.”
“Our member-owners produce high-quality crops and ag products for customers around the world. It’s why CHS is the leading agricultural cooperative in the U.S.,” said Erica Boyum, Sales Manager, CHS Prairie Lakes. “We are excited to participate in the trade mission to Cuba. It’s a great opportunity to share our products with an untapped market for American agricultural goods.”
“Extension provides practical, research-based information to Minnesotans and beyond. Like our partners in the agricultural industry, Extension operates in a global environment, and we recognize the opportunity that Cuba presents for Minnesota agriculture,” said Dr. Beverly Durgan, Dean, University of Minnesota Extension. “I am excited to learn more about the possibilities.”
“Cuba is a significant and expanding market for Minnesota companies,” said Evan Berquist, an attorney with Cozen O’Connor. “This mission is particularly timely, given all the policy changes taking place in Cuba and the U.S.”
During the trip, Minnesota producers will have the opportunity to develop personal relationships with potential customers in Cuba. These connections are especially important in light of the Trump Administration’s recent decision to restrict American access to Cuba.
Minnesota’s Agricultural Exports
In 2014, Minnesota exported $7.3 billion in agricultural products worldwide, making the state the fourth largest agricultural exporter in the United States. Soybeans and soybean products, corn, pork, animal feed, and dairy accounted for 70 percent of the exports. In recent years, Minnesota’s agricultural exports have increased significantly – more than tripling since 2000.
Located only 90 miles from the United States, Cuba presents a significant economic opportunity for Minnesota farmers. With more than 11 million people, Cuba annually imports nearly $2 billion in food and agricultural products from around the world. Cuba relies on agricultural imports to meet the needs of residents and the country’s growing tourism industry.
Congressional Delegation Efforts to Amend Cuba Sanction Regulations
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Congressman Tom Emmer are leading bipartisan efforts to modernize U.S.-Cuban relations. Modernized relations would create new economic opportunities for Minnesota businesses, while improving quality-of-life for people in Cuba.
In February 2015, Senator Klobuchar introduced legislation that would eliminate legal barriers for Americans doing business in Cuba, which would stimulate job growth and create export opportunities for Minnesota farmers. That legislation, to be clear, would leave in place current laws intended to address human rights in Cuba and that allow Americans to pursue claims against the Cuban government.
Recent Trump Administration Action
On Friday, the Trump Administration announced new restrictions on travel and trade that could make it more challenging for Americans to visit Cuba and for American businesses to sell their products in that country. The restrictions underscore the importance of closer ties between Minnesota businesses and Cuban consumers to drive new economic opportunities and improve quality-of-life for people in Cuba. The Trump Administration’s decision to enact new restrictions will likely reverse some of the actions taken by the Obama Administration in 2015 and 2016 to enhance U.S.-Cuban engagement.
Minnesota Delegation to Cuba – Travel Itinerary
Monday, June 19 [Travel Day]
- Travel to Havana, Cuba
- Delegation Briefing
Tuesday, June 20
- Meeting at Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Visit Local Food Markets
- Meeting at Ministry of Agriculture
Wednesday, June 21
- Visit Agriculture Cooperatives in La Palma
- Meeting with President of National Assembly for Mayabeque Province
Thursday, June 22
- Meeting at Institute for Animal Sciences of Cuba
- Meeting with USDA Foreign Agriculture Service
- Reception with the U.S. Ambassador
Friday, June 23 [Travel Day]
- Travel to Minneapolis
— Office of Governor Mark Dayton & Lt. Governor Tina Smith
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