Virginia farm exports gaining foothold in Cuba
Todd Haymore, the state’s secretary of agriculture and forestry, led his sixth annual trade mission to Havana in November, and as a result Virginia has beefed up its apple and soybean exports to the country that for years banned trade with the United States.
On Nov. 28, McDonnell told participants at the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention that including the voice of agriculture and forestry in every facet of economic development is making a difference.
“Every trade mission we go on, Secretary Haymore is there,” McDonnell said. Virginia exported a record $2.35 billion in farm commodities last year and opened trade offices in Asia, Europe, India and Latin America.
“Even in the face of ongoing global economic uncertainty, Virginia’s agricultural exports continue to grow, year-in and year-out,” said Spencer Neale, VFBF senior assistant director of commodity marketing. “This is a testament to the commitment, dedication and hard work of Gov. McDonnell, Secretary Haymore and all the employees in the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Department of Forestry who make this happen.”
While total U.S. sales to Cuba have plummeted by nearly half since the start of the recession—from $711.5 million in 2008 to $363.3 million last year, according to the U.S. Commerce Department—Virginia’s have grown. The state’s agricultural exports to Cuba have shot up from $25 million to $30 million before the recession to $65 million last year. Most are soybeans for animal feed, and apples.
Those sales make Cuba Virginia’s seventh-largest export market, and it puts the commonwealth behind just two states, Louisiana and Florida, in trade with the island nation.
“Cuba will be an important, long-term export market for Virginia,” Neale said. “Our officials recognize that, and the fact that they remain focused and engaged in that country shows great foresight.”