Heitkamp Pushes to Expand U.S. Agricultural Export Opportunities to Cuba
April 21, 2015
During a U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp reinforced the need to expand U.S. agricultural export opportunities to Cuba, which would improve support for farmers across our country, especially in North Dakota, by expanding a key market for American farmers to ship their products.
Heitkamp stressed the importance of allowing access to credit so farmers in North Dakota and throughout the country are able to more easily export agricultural commodities to Cuba. During the hearing which focused on agriculture trade with Cuba, Heitkamp also spoke about how Cuba is a prime market for North Dakota farmers, as pulse crops – including black beans, peas, and lentils – are in high demand in Cuba and are largely grown in the upper Midwest, including North Dakota. In February 2014, Heitkamp visited Cuba with U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and met with Cuban agricultural trade officials, including Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, to discuss the economic benefits of expanding agricultural exports from North Dakota and the U.S. to Cuba.
"Farmers throughout North Dakota produce food that feeds families and communities around the world, but there are more steps we can take to improve support for agricultural exports from the United States which would also help North Dakota farmers," said Heitkamp. "As our nation expands its export opportunities with Cuba, it's critical that our exporters can provide credit to remain competitive into this potentially major market and I'll soon be offering a proposal to help make that possible. By eliminating outdated regulations and improving support for our country's agricultural exporters, we can further bolster North Dakota's economy and better support farmers across our state."
Cuba imports about 80 percent of its food, and has a diet heavy in products grown in the upper Midwest, including North Dakota, reinforcing the strong demand for these products. North Dakota is the 9th largest agriculture exporting state in the country, with an estimated $4.1 billion in commodities sold each year in foreign markets. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Dakota agricultural exports support about 27,000 jobs. Last December, Heitkamp highlighted how federal action that was taken would help support agricultural exports for North Dakota farmers. Additionally, she noted how the change in U.S.-Cuba policy would also support North Dakota's economy and address low American commodity prices by opening new markets.