By Don Molino, Voice of Louisiana Agriculture Radio Network
Speaking Monday to the Baton Rouge Press Club, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Mike Strain once again called for relaxed trading conditions with Cuba, once the largest trading partner for Louisiana.
Strain touched on one of the trips he made last year to Cuba. When he asked about their rice production, he was told it was 2000 pounds per acre. That compares with the 7500 pounds per acre here in the US.
“We asked them what kind of fertilizer they use. They don’t have any. What kind of herbicides? What kind of pesticides. Again, they don’t have any. We asked them how they plant rice. The response? With a stick,” said Strain.
So why is trade so important to Louisiana and Louisiana agriculture? “Because we have what no other state has. The wealth of American agriculture comes right down to us,” Strain pointed out.
Total imports next year to Cuba will be over $6 billion. Rice about $185 million while corn and beans should reach about $200 million each.
“We believe of the $2 billion in food Cuba will import, the US could rapidly get to one billion dollars of that. We believe Louisiana could get to $500 million within five years,” said Strain. “Remember we’re their closest trading partner. It takes rice from Vietnam 30 days to get to Cuba. We can have it there in two days.”
IN the past ten years, Louisiana has sold more products to Cuba than the next five closest states combined, according to the commissioner, “And they need basically everything.”
Strain, President of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture this year, said proponents thought they had enough votes in congress late last year to get the trade embargo lifted. But that fell though at the last minute.
“We need now to sit down, we know what the issues are the let’s find a way to get to the end of all these issues,” Strain said.