Gov. Jay Nixon will lead a delegation of Missourians on a trade mission to Cuba from Sunday to June 1, is office announced Tuesday.
With the recent progress toward normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, the trade mission will focus on growing Missouri farm exports to the island nation of 11 million.
“The growth of Missouri exports has gone hand in hand with our revitalized economy,” Nixon said in a statement. “Cuba represents a market of 11 million consumers that has been largely untouched by U.S. exports for more than 55 years. Missouri is moving forward to take advantage of this opportunity, particularly when it comes to rice, one of the staples of the Cuban diet.”
The delegation will include first lady Georganne Nixon, Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Richard Fordyce and Missouri Department of Economic Development Director Mike Downing.
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Other members of the trade delegation include Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University; Gary Wheeler of the Missouri Soybean Association; Silvia Hollis of Mid-Continent Aircraft, Hayti; Thorstein Holt of Holtec Gas Systems, Chesterfield; Brady Moses of SatCommX, Lampe; Jeffrey Fort, of MOM Brands Sales, St. Louis; and several representatives of Martin Rice of Bernie.
From a Nixon news release:
Cuba formerly was a significant export destination for Missouri-grown rice. Missouri produces a high-quality, long-grain rice that has proven to be a high-value crop for farmers in the southeast part of the state, the Governor said, and increasing rice exports would be another boost for the regional and state economies.
As part of the focus on Missouri exports, Gov. Nixon will visit the new deep-water port at Mariel, Cuba, which has expanded capacity to receive large cargo ships. Missouri products, particularly grain, often are transported down the Mississippi River by barge to the Gulf of Mexico and then to overseas markets by sea-going cargo ships. As part of his trade mission to the Republic of Panama in March, the Governor went to the newly expanded Panama Canal, a major transportation route for U.S. grain exports.
In addition to meeting with Cuban government officials in Havana, Gov. Nixon will be briefed by Deputy Chief of Mission Scott Hamilton and other high-ranking officials at the U.S. Embassy on progress toward facilitating and increasing trade between the U.S. and Cuba. He is also scheduled to address an entrepreneurial forum coordinated by the Cuban Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Trade and Investment, which will include Cuban companies and members of the Missouri delegation.
Travel costs for the Governor and First Lady will be covered by the Hawthorn Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting economic growth in Missouri; state taxpayer funds will not be used.
This isn’t the first trip Mrs. Nixon has taken to Cuba.
In March 2015, she represented Missouri in a trade mission to Cuba with members of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC), including 95 current and former government officials, industry representatives, and agriculture leaders including two former U.S. secretaries of agriculture. It was the first official trade mission from the United States after President Obama announced the decision to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba in December 2014.
The governor was unable to travel on that trade mission because of the funeral of state Auditor Thomas Schweich.