A group of Minnesota agriculture leaders toured Cuba to check out potential trade relations if embargoes are eased in the future.
The delegation toured farms and markets last week to study Cuban food processes and production, and met with government officials and agricultural research leaders.
Department of Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson led the group, and said afterward that Cuba is a great potential export market for Minnesota farmers. Most Minnesotans in the 17-member delegation represented commodity promotion councils.
“Trade is a two-way street and we explored some of the future ways we can work together to create the biggest benefit to both of our agricultural economies,” Frederickson said in a statement.
Delegates are now bringing the information from the trip back to their associations, he said.
Cuba has limited resources and at this point would be a comparatively small trading partner, but officials say the country, with its 11 million people, can offer trade value. Potential exports from the U.S. could include potatoes, soybean products, corn, animal feed, pork, poultry products and processed foods.
However, removing current trade restrictions is up to the federal government. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduced the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act earlier this year in an attempt to repeal the 1961 trade embargo and shipping limitations between U.S. and Cuban ports. U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer has co-introduced the Cuba Trade Act of 2015, which is a similar proposal to normalize trade. Much of the rest of Minnesota’s congressional delegation has also supported improved trade relations.
Several other states have sent trade missions to Cuba or are planning to do so, including a North Dakota group that traveled there in late October.
Interest in Cuba picked up after President Obama’s executive action on Dec. 17, 2014, to open up business, trade and travel relationships with the island, and to initiate discussions about re-establishing diplomatic relations.