U.S. agricultural sector is not giving up on trade with Cuba

Minnesota delegation visits Mayabeque this week

MAYABEQUE, Cuba – After President Donald Trump announced a return to the U.S. embargo restrictions on travel to Cuba, a group from Minnesota traveled to the Communist island this week. 

The state group mission included Minnesota's Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson. They are part of bipartisan coalition working to forge relationships after former President Barack Obama lifted restrictions. 

"I am disappointed that we cannot continue to make progress that we were able to make under the Obama administration," Smith said.

The bipartisan delegation's main goal was to reiterate that despite Trump's announcement, they want to continue fostering the U.S.-Cuba relationship, Smith said. Minnesota agricultural sales to Cuba are still allowed under Trump's policy, which bars transactions with the Cuban military. 

The delegation arrived in Havana on Monday and traveled out of the city for about an hour to San Jose, the capital of the Mayabeque province, where they met on Tuesday. 

The group also included representatives of agricultural organizations looking for business opportunities and exchanges such as the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the Minnesota Farm Bureau.

Cubans import about 80 percent of its domestic food requirements, according to the World Food Programme. The European Union and China are among Cuba's largest trading partners. 

The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that the embargo cost U.S. exporters up to $1.2 billion annually in lost sales. If all restrictions on trade and travel were lifted, sales in poultry, beef and pork could rise by $13.8 million, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  

Smith said Minnesota is one of the top five producers for turkey, pork, soybean and corn. Smith also said she and the president of the People's Power of Mayabeque, Tamara Valido Benítez, talked about what both agricultural areas have in common, including the adoption of cooperative farms. 

Local 10 News Brian Ely contributed to this story. 

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