Iowa Farmer In Cuba Sees Incredible Export Opportunities

Iowa Corn Growers Association Board Member Jerry Mohr saw classic cars and architecture from the past in Cuba, but also amazing opportunities for future trade

Scott County Farmer Jerry Mohr calls it an amazing adventure amid classic cars and architecture that highlights exciting opportunities for Ag Exports in Iowa.

In March of last year, just before President Obama touched down in the island nation to celebrate efforts to normalize trade relations, Jerry represented the Iowa Corn Growers Association as part of a contingent visiting Cuba. He says right now any of the corn and soybeans growing on his 1000 acres, which might end up leaving the country, probably go to Mexico, China or Japan. But he says visiting farms and talking with the people of Cuba showed him how the communist country is quite literally starving for contact with the United States and could be the next thriving export market.

“Cuba is a food-insecure country. They import almost 80-percent of their food. The people are friendly, the people are highly educated, we were welcomed everywhere we went.”

Jerry says with 11 million people just 90 miles from U.S. shores, it’s an incredible opportunity to benefit both countries. He says when the doors closed to Cuba in the early 1960's it was number seven on the list of largest importers of American goods.

He says for Iowa farmers, grain and dairy products could easily be shipped. The heat and humidity make it a tough environment for milk production and the grain could help produce protein quickly in the form of chicken.

“We can put corn on a container, it can go on a train, it can go to Miami and for a small operation, or many small operations, that container of corn can start to feed those chickens.”

Jerry says there are still challenges and restrictions which need to be lifted both in the U.S. and Cuba to encourage companies to invest and purchase products. And he is quick to point out farmers are not overlooking or condoning the treatment of the Cuban people by Dictator Raul Castro. But as President Trump ponders whether to roll back trade progress, he also questions whether that’s the best tactic for change.

“Sanctions only work when you have someone that’s totally beyond control. The Cuban people embrace the United States.”

Jerry says many farmers believe the opportunity for change in Cuba is much better when the lines of communication and trade remain open. As a 4th generation farmer, Jerry says even during his turn in the fields times have changed dramatically and there is great opportunity right now for Iowa business in Cuba.

“I’m old enough that I can remember the Missile Crisis. You know, get under the desk when we’re going to have a nuclear attack. So for me it’s come full circle and if I was king for a day I would lower the restrictions on trade.”

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