Agri-business in Illinois smells money in improved trade relations between the United States and Cuba. The president announced Wednesday his intent to improve trade and business relations with Cuba, and the USDA estimates that could be worth $3 billion to U.S. farmers. “What would Illinois get from that? My guess is we would probably be the third-largest trading partner of all the states. Certainly Cuba has said that they’re looking for an increase in purchases of soy, and that’s gonna benefit Illinois directly,” says Paul Johnson, executive director of the Illinois—Cuba Working Group.
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Illinois has seen exports to Cuba decline in recent years, due to the complexity of receiving payment. Cuba also will be interested in corn, wheat, pork and dairy products, as well as farm equipment that Illinois could supply.
The greatest economic benefit will come, farm groups say, if Congress votes next year to repeal the embargo that began in 1960. “What we are hearing is our Illinois congressional folks are in favor of eliminating the embargo,” says Mark Albertson, director of strategic market development for the Illinois Soybean Association.
He says Cuba will get soy from somewhere; it might as well be the United States. He says the U.S. once sold 75 percent of the soy going into Cuba. Now that market share belongs to Brazil and Argentina.