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Cuba trade bill action pleases Juhnke

WILLMAR -- State Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, said he was pleased to learn on Thursday that the U.S. House Agriculture Committee passed legislation (H.R. 4645) that if enacted would greatly expand trade with Cuba.

Juhnke heads the Minnesota House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Finance Committee and participated in an ag trade mission to Cuba in 2008. While in Havana, the delegation met with Cuba's commodity purchasers to discuss future sales contracts with Minnesota companies.

"From Jennie-O Turkey franks to Land O' Lakes milk replacer for dairy cows to dried distillers grains from our ethanol plants, Minnesota has been positioning itself for this market over a number of years," said Juhnke in a news release.

"I want to thank Congressman Collin Peterson for his efforts in opening up this market for the good of Minnesota agriculture, as well as the Cuban people,'' Juhnke said.

A 2007 report by the U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that by removing restrictions, U.S. exports to Cuba could nearly double from the 2006 level. Minnesota, which exported $18 million in agriculture products in 2007, would be a big benefactor, Juhnke said.

Two years ago, Juhnke joined a bipartisan group in passing a House resolution urging Congress and the president to end trade and travel restrictions to Cuba. That resolution was vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The House then re-passed its own resolution authored by Juhnke, a copy of which was sent to Cuban officials.

Approximately 140 groups support H.R. 4645, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Farmers Union, American Farm Bureau Federation and Human Rights Watch. The U.S. House Agriculture Committee also received a letter signed by more than 70 pro-democracy Cuban leaders that strongly encouraged passage of the bill.