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Cuba: Vital Market in Ag Industry

The United States is building relations with Cuba and growing its agricultural export market.
Cuba: Vital Market in Ag Industry

Cuba: Vital Market in Ag Industry

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Show Details

Show 1507: Cuba: Vital Market in Ag Industry
Air Date: February 15, 2015

 

Transcript

Rob McClendon: And that day appears to soon be here. After more than 50 years of limited contact with Cuba, both countries are preparing to increase the flow of people and commerce between them. As our Andy Barth reports, it’s a move that has Oklahoma’s agriculture industry very excited.

Andy Barth: It was a packed room in El Reno, Okla., as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack answered questions about the future of American agriculture.

Tom Vilsack: We can’t always assume that we can grow what we have been traditionally growing, so we have to prepare.

Andy: A future that could be brighter with the opening of the Cuban market.

Vilsack: What the president has done through his executive action is reduce some of the friction in terms of how to do business with the Cubans, so we would anticipate and expect it would allow us to get a little bit more of that market share that we’ve lost over the last several years. We at one point in time did about $600 million in business in Cuba. Now, we’re at about 300 million, so we obviously have some upside potential here.

Mike Schulte: It is a market that we have not been doing anything with.

Andy: A potential that the Oklahoma Wheat Commission’s Mike Schulte says will benefit the wheat industry.

Schulte: Oklahoma wheat producers and U.S. wheat producers are extremely excited about this announcement. Oklahoma in particular has realized the importance of the Cuban market for wheat exports for a long time, and we’re hoping that we can take some opportunities in the future.

Andy: And Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s John Collison says seeing Cuba firsthand showed him how desperate the country is for U.S. agricultural goods.

John Collison: I’ve been on the ground in Cuba. I spent a week there. I met with their trade administrators. We met with agriculture. It makes sense. You know, people are hungry. People want to eat. It’s a close trade proximity to us. Open the markets.

Andy: And Schulte says Cuban officials already know and like Oklahoma’s top commodity.

Schulte: They’ve told us in the past that they want our wheat. They were extremely happy when we had shipments come from Texas and Oklahoma.

Andy: And for Vilsack, he sees a big future with Cuba relations.

Vilsack: If and when the embargo gets lifted over all, and business is more effectively done with the Cubans, I think we’re gonna see a much larger share of that $.17 billion market coming to U.S. agriculture. Because we have got the goods, we’ve got affordable price, we’re only 90 miles away from, uh, from that island. So there’s tremendous opportunity here.

Collison: Food policy has never been something that we should use as a tool. Let’s open the markets. Let’s get out there. And let’s trade with the world.

Rob: Now, some of the changes the president hopes to make, including an end to the embargo, will require congressional approval. And some U.S. lawmakers aren’t convinced our country should mend ties with Cuba.

Rob: Well, if you’d like to learn more about the on again, off again relations Oklahoma’s had with Cuba, I do have my entire series of stories from the past decade streaming on our website, and I think they’ll give you a good insight into just how much politics can influence policy. Now, to see any of those segments just head to okhorizon.com and look under this week’s value added.

Rob: Now, when we return, my conversation with one of the country’s foremost minds on our changing economy.