KEYC - Local Ag Experts React to Talk of Trade Restored with Cuba

Local Ag Experts React to Talk of Trade Restored with Cuba

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President Barack Obama is currently in Cuba with several other people interested in what Cuba has to offer. That includes Senator Amy Klobuchar who has an interest in what an open trade relationship could do for Southern Minnesota. Ag leaders are closely watching the historic summit as well.

Farm Management Analyst Kent Theisse said, "Lifting the embargo, opening up trade relations with Cuba, I think agriculture in the United States and agriculture in Southern Minnesota would be a net winner from that; because we do produce a lot of products that Cuba does not produce naturally."

Cuba imports about 80% of their food products from places such as Europe and South America.

"Most of our commodities in the U.S, whether it's grains or livestock, we have surpluses; we're looking at ways to enhance our export market. Cubans eat a lot of chicken, poultry, they also eat a lot of pork, and so certainly our meat products have a lot of opportunity," said Kent.

Renewing trade relations with Cuba has other benefits outside the importing and exporting according to Assistant Professor Mimi Gerstebauer with Gustavus.

"The more open trade approach is potentially much more positive in bringing human rights and a less suppressive regime into Cuba."

There are other aspects to consider when it comes to other producers in the area.

Theisse said, "The tradeoff is they probably have some products that they'd like to import into the United States, such as sugar and possibly some fruits; which could affect producers in United States. Minnesota is also a major sugar beet producer, so there is some tradeoffs that could happen."

There is potential for a positive outcome with the open trade relations, but there are other points to consider; how many of our area producers will benefit compared to those who won't?

So far, this summit has brought lifting the half–century old U.S. trade embargo against the communist nation to the world's center stage. And could undoubtedly improve Cuba's economic development and perhaps right here at home.

--KEYC News 12