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Minnesota trade mission to Cuba

Representatives of Minnesota’s agricultural sector met with leaders of a Cuban cooperative and the Cuban minister of agriculture’s staff.
Agricultural leaders from Minnesota embarked on a trade mission to Cuba in late-June. The trip was led by Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and included State Sen. Julie Rosen and Agricultural Commissioner Dave Frederickson. CHS Prairie Lakes Sales Manager Erica Boyum also joined the mission as part of a diverse group of state agricultural leaders.
 
“Although Cuba is a small and developing country, there is opportunity for agricultural trade," says Erica Boyum, CHS Prairie Lakes. ”Cuba imports nearly 80% of its food and since we are only 90 miles away, its important we’re engaged.”

The group met with a variety of organizations during their time in Cuba including the Institute of Animal Sciences, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. U.S. policies towards the island, particularly those related to agriculture, were top of mind with Cuban leaders and organizations.

The delegation visited Cuba at an interesting time, as President Trump revealed the administration’s new policies concerning Cuba just days before they left. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Tom Emmer have consistently led bipartisan efforts to end trade restrictions with the country. CHS has supported legislation to end the embargo, lift travel restrictions and improve financing, which continues to be one of the major hurdles for agriculture shippers.

“Cuba is definitely a market in which CHS would like to be present,” says Audley Burford, Latin American Customer Relationship Manager for Grain Marketing North America. “We are currently working through the process of getting authorized as registered suppliers.”

The Cubans were interested in learning more about the U.S. cooperative system and how its structure benefits producers and other small businesses. The Institute of Animal Sciences recognized the benefits of importing U.S. grain to help with supplemental feed for livestock and collaborating with the U.S. to help Cuba’s study of animal diseases such as avian flu.

“The Cuban government and agricultural cooperatives are eager to work with and learn from Minnesotans to advance their agriculture system, and showed great desire to have a mutually beneficial relationship,” said Boyum.