Gov. Heineman, Ag Leaders Leaving for Trade Mission to Cuba
Gov. Dave Heineman, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) and advocates for Nebraska's agricultural producers are preparing to depart this weekend for Cuba, where the Governor is leading a 10-member trade delegation Aug. 13-17.
The Nebraska delegation is exploring export opportunities for the state's agricultural products, as well as medical supplies. Congress approved exceptions to the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba for food and medical supplies in 2000.
"We are looking forward to this important opportunity for Nebraska's farmers and ranchers," Gov. Heineman said. "We are hopeful that we will sell some dry, edible beans during the trip, and we are confident that this trip will open new doors for Nebraska producers."
Those joining the Governor on the trade mission include representatives of Nebraska's bean, corn and wheat producers, as well as representatives from NDA and the University of Nebraska. The delegation will spend one night in Florida and travel to Havana on Sunday. Once there, several meetings are planned with Cuban agricultural officials who have already expressed interest in purchasing the dry, edible beans grown in western Nebraska. The delegation will also discuss potential purchases of corn, soybeans, wheat, pork, and beef.
NDA director Greg Ibach has been organizing the trip. Meetings have been scheduled with Alimport, the Cuban state enterprise responsible for the importation of food and agricultural commodities. The delegation's plans include meetings with Pedro Alvarez, chairman of Alimport, as well as Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade Raul de la Nuez Ramires. Cuban officials also arranged a visit to the Genetic and Biotechnology Research Institute.
In addition to the Governor and Ibach, the delegation will include Stan Garbacz of NDA, Charlie Witmer of Stateline Bean Producers Cooperative, Brett Morrison of Nebraska Bean Inc., Bryce Kelley of Kelley Bean Corp., Mark Jagels of the Nebraska Corn Board, David Hilferty of the Nebraska Wheat Board, Keith Olsen, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, and Chuck Hibberd of the University's Panhandle Research and Extension Center.
Last year the U.S. exported $400 million in agricultural products to Cuba. By the end of May, the U.S. had sent more than $156 million in agricultural products to Cuba this year.