MCGA president joins state officials in Cuba trade mission

Last week Minnesota Corn Growers Association President Harold Wolle joined state officials and agricultural leaders in a trade mission to Cuba in an effort to develop the country as a market for corn exports. For Minnesota-grown corn, the trip was hopefully the beginning of many conversations to develop a trade relationship for the commodity.

Wolle, along with Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith, Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson, State Senator Julie Rosen and other representatives from ag commodity groups, met with Cuba’s ministry of foreign affairs to discuss the need for trade with Cuba. Wolle said Cuba currently depends on countries much further away than the United States for its imports due to lack of financial credit and existing trade restrictions.

“They are more than ready to move forward with trade,” Wolle said. “A number of us really felt the need to go to Washington and make the case for extending credit to Cuba and lifting these restrictions.”

Although talks did not progress to the actual sale of corn, Wolle said the need for the commodity was very evident, especially for feedstuffs. Currently Cuba, which has a population of more than 11 million, does not grow very much corn.

“There is tremendous implications that could be made in the feed efficiency with livestock and milk production when they incorporate proper feedstuffs for a high-energy and high-protein diet,” he said.

Just days prior to the trip, President Donald Trump announced his intentions to roll back open-trade rules put in place by former President Barack Obama. Although the timing was unfortunate, Wolle said conversation with Cuban officials wasn’t hindered because Trump’s remarks at the time did not pertain to ag exports.

This most recent trade mission is the latest chapter in Minnesota’s effort to develop Cuba as a trade market. Former Governor Jesse Ventura first made a trip to the country during his tenure as governor, and currently a bipartisan effort, led by Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Tom Emmer, also looks to end trade barriers with Cuba.

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