Is it time for Midwest exports to Cuba?

Feb 22, 2015

Credit USDA

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says it’s time for the U.S. to engage with Cuban markets. But some Republican leaders remain skeptical.

Vilsack, who was in metro Kansas City on Tuesday, says increasing U.S. exports to Cuba could help Midwest farmers.

“The reality is we used to do roughly $600 million of business in that country. It’s about a $1.7 billion dollar market. Wheat is certainly one area, poultry is another area, soybeans is another area.”

But while Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas says he’ll schedule a hearing on Cuba, he’s urging caution.

“This is a very repressive regime. Each time we took a commodity group, we would run into these state-owned enterprises, and you couldn’t get credit arranged, you couldn’t get a lot of things set up like you normally do in a trade situation with a friendly country.”

Vilsack says the currency protections some in Congress want to include in a trade agreement with Cuba aren’t usually the focus of such talks.