U.S. and Cuba trade supports ag exports for North Dakota farmers
U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, today released the following statement on new federal action that will help expand export opportunities for United States agricultural products and equipment to Cuba.
Heitkamp has continued a long-fought push to expand agriculture export access to Cuba from the Dakotas and Montana, which were also advocated by Senators Byron Dorgan, Kent Conrad, and Max Baucus when they were in the Senate.
In February 2014, Heitkamp and U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) visited Cuba and met with several officials, including Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Antonio Carricarte, to discuss the economic benefits of expanding agriculture exports from North Dakota and the U.S. to Cuba. During their meetings, Heitkamp heard an increased willingness from Cuban officials to engage more regarding U.S. exports, and today’s action aligns with what Heitkamp learned during her visit.
“To help our farmers do their jobs, we need to make sure they have export opportunities to ship their products around the country and the world,” said Heitkamp. “Cuba is a prime market for North Dakota farmers – it imports the vast majority of its food, and there is strong demand for many of the products predominantly grown in our state, both for feeding the Cuban people and its growing agricultural sector. Rather than Cuba importing beans, corn, and grain from our agricultural competitors, our farmers should be able to provide more of our products to feed Cuba. North Dakota’s former Senators also understood the importance of expanding agriculture export access to Cuba, as it will support North Dakota’s economy and help address low American commodity prices by opening new markets. And today’s announcement provides Cuba access to much-needed agriculture equipment made in the U.S. for its growing agricultural sector. This piece of today’s announcement is good for our farmers, state, and the country.”
Cuba imports about 80 percent of the food it rations to the public, and has a diet heavy in products grown in the upper Midwest – including beans, dry peas, and lentils – reinforcing the strong demand for these products. North Dakota is the 9th largest agriculture exporting state in the country , with $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.
The Dec. 17, action, which included other efforts to aid the Cuban people and improve diplomatic relations, will enable U.S. financial institutions to work directly with Cuban financial institutions, facilitating and improving transactions, such as agriculture exports, between both nations. Additionally, a regulatory definition will be modified to make authorized trade – including agriculture exports from North Dakota and the U.S. – more efficient and in line with regular commercial practices, making it easier for North Dakota farmers to export products to Cuba.