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High Ranking USDA Official Visits Springfield, Discusses Potential Trade With Cuba

The USDA’s undersecretary for farm and agricultural services was in Springfield this week.  KSMU’s Michele Skalicky caught up with him and has this story.

President Barack Obama recently announced his decision to normalize relations and ease trade restrictions with Cuba, a nation just off the coast of Florida.

During his visit to Springfield, Michael Scuse, the USDA’s undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, addressed that topic and others.

He said there are a lot of opportunities for agricultural products from the U.S. and Missouri to go to Cuba.

"If you look at our sales over the last few years, they've dropped from $600 million to just over $300 million because of the restrictions, and we've seen the numbers from the European Union climb to about $1 billion in agricultural trade, so if we ease these restrictions we have a distinct advantage because of our proximity.  Cuba's only 90 miles off of our coast," he said.

Scuse said there’s demand for a lot of products in Cuba including poultry, soybeans and soybean products and grains.

Missouri’s governor, Jay Nixon, is planning a trade mission to the country March 1st.  He’ll be joined by members of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba to explore how to maximize the benefits of expanded trade to Cuba for Missouri producers, according to his office.  He’s expected to be the first U.S. governor to go on a trade mission to Cuba.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill travelled to Cuba last weekend to learn about the country and help open doors for Missouri in the agricultural and business sectors. 

Scuse said those visits are important as the possibility of trade with Cuba becomes closer to reality.

"Face to face meetings in any country by elected or high-ranking elected officials--very important to establish the dialogue to build the relationships and to get the products moving into foreign countries," he said.

Michael Scuse's visit was sponsored by the Darr School of Agriculture at Missouri State University.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.