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Nixon To Explore Agricultural Trade With Cuba

Livestock in Missouri.
File | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio
The Missouri legislature is considering making the MDC financially responsible for any damage caused by wild elk, and allowing ranchers and other landowners to kill any elk that damages their property.

Gov. Jay Nixon has ordered the Missouri Department of Agriculture to explore business opportunities in Cuba.

The move follows President Barack Obama's decision to normalize relations with the communist island nation. 

In a written statement released Tuesday, Nixon said that Missouri's agricultural exports are already up by 14 percent this year.

"Cuba provides exciting prospects as an export market for the world-class goods produced by Missouri farmers," Nixon said. "I look forward to the Department of Agriculture detailing the additional economic opportunities we would gain by expanding our trade market in Cuba."

The move is also being praised by state Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, who chairs the Senate;s agriculture committee.

"Cuba's so close and could be a good market for our products, whether it's corn or beans or even meat," Munzlinger said.  "We've got a supply of grain right now that we need to move."

Missouri Farm Bureau president Blake Hurst also supports Nixon's decision.

"We see Cuba as a prospective trading partner (that) might very well be a good market for Missouri's agricultural products, particularly rice," Hurst said.

Southeastern Missouri, in particular, is a large producer of rice.  Former U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, pushed to lift sanctions that barred the sale of U.S. rice to Cuba, resulting in a law passed in 2000 that allows some crops to be sold under heavy regulation.

The move to normalize relations with Cuba has come under heavy criticism from some Republican members of Congress, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.  So far, the only objection to Nixon's move to explore trade with Cuba comes from departing House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka.

"I am confident that a majority of Missourians join me in being extremely concerned with Gov. Nixon's unilateral and misguided decision to follow lockstep with the failed Obama foreign policy of catering to despotic dictators with known terrible human rights records such as the Castro brothers. The Castro regime, based upon its decades of totalitarianism, corruption and human rights violations, will be sure to take as much benefit out of any trade deals with the United States for themselves personally and little to no benefit will flow to the Cuban people. The fact that Nixon would make such a rash knee jerk reaction to follow blindly the continued failed decisions of the Obama regime is simply another example of this governor's failed leadership for all of Missouri."

Munzlinger, on the other hand, thinks the Cuban people could benefit from Missouri-grown crops and meat.

"I think maybe we can actually pull the Cuban people along," Munzlinger said.  "We've done trade with a lot of other countries (that) don't like us very much."

Meanwhile, the governor's office is also in the early stages of planning a trade mission to Cuba.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.