Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jessica A. Chittenden

April 18, 2008

Commissioner Hooker Announces NY’s First Trade Mission to Cuba

NY Farmers and Agri-Business Leaders to Explore Cuban Market from April 21-23

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker today announced that he will lead a delegation of New York farmers and agri-business leaders on New York’s first-ever trade mission to Cuba in an effort to encourage the export of New York agricultural products to the island. The group will explore market opportunities during a three-day tour from April 21 to 23.

"Cuba relies heavily on U.S. imports and has expressed a keen interest in New York food and agricultural products," the Commissioner said. "This trade mission will allow for face-to-face meetings with Cuban buyers and will give our producers another market opportunity – one which if successful, could return significant revenue to the Upstate communities in which these businesses reside."

New York State is a national leader in the production of a variety of farm products, ranking first in cottage cheese, second in apples and cabbage, and third in milk, grapes, sweet corn, snap beans, and cauliflower. Many of these products are currently exported to Cuba by other states, but New York does not export any agricultural goods to the island at this time.

The trade mission will open the communications between New York producers and Cuban buyers in hopes of tapping into the more than $350 million the U.S. exports to Cuba annually. Commissioner Hooker will travel with 19 farmers, growers and New York State agricultural leaders, who specialize in dairy products, vegetables, apples, wine, and forestry products. Since 2003, the United States has been Cuba’s most important food and agricultural product supplier accounting for more than a quarter of the country’s total food and agricultural imports.

Members of the delegation include:

· Jim Allen of New York Apple Association in Fishers

· Chuck Andola of United Apple Sales in New Paltz

· Scott Clippinger & James Webb of Lok-N-Logs in Sherburne

· John Cushing of New York Apple Sales in Castleton

· L. Sue Bachorski of Constellation Wines in Canandaigua

· Robert & Patti Hudak of Ag Bio Tech in Livonia

· Kevin King of Empire State Forest Products in Rensselaer

· Kevin Lipps of Seneca Foods in Marion

· Bob Martens of Martens Farms in Port Byron

· David Martin of Martin Farms in Brockport

· Tony Piedimonte of James Piedimonte and Sons in Holley

· Stephen Servies of Gutchess Lumber in Cortland

· Susan Spence of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation in Canandaigua

· Bryan Von Hahmann of Dairylea Cooperative Milk in Syracuse

· Les Wagner of Wagner Lumber in Owego

· Craig Yunker of CY Farms, LLC in Elba

· Lloyd Zimmerman of Black Horse Farm Inc. in Coxsackie

"I am pleased to lead the State’s first agricultural trade mission to Cuba," the Commissioner said. "Numerous states have been to Cuba and have successfully traded various food and agricultural products, bringing added markets and revenue to producers throughout the country.  With all the products New York has to offer, I am excited about the opportunities this trip will present for New York producers in the future."  

To date, 25 other states have organized trade missions to Cuba. Alamar Associates is organizing New York’s trade mission, and has organized six other successful state visits to Cuba, most recently for California. While in Cuba, New York delegates will meet with Alimport, the Cuban entity that negotiates and signs all contracts with U.S. firms. New York companies will have the opportunity to hold private meetings with Alimport to discuss negotiations and make actual sales while visiting.

Since October 2000, U.S. companies have been allowed to sell agricultural, food and medical products to Cuba. Since that time, Cuba has purchased $2.7 billion worth of agriculture and food products from U.S. firms. More than 150 companies from more than 35 states have sold 300 different products to Cuba. Imported food is important to help nourish Cuba’s 11 million residents and an estimated 2 million tourists who visit the island each year.

Supporting farms and agri-business is a cornerstone of the Paterson Administration’s Upstate Revitalization plan which would infuse $700 million into the Upstate region’s economy through a range of economic development initiatives. The State budget enacted earlier this month includes a $40 million Agricultural Development Fund to support the continued growth of the food and agricultural industry by encouraging investments that promote the development of alternative fuel products, access to markets, and improvements in farm and agricultural infrastructure.

PHOTOGRAPHS: Will be available upon request following the trade mission, April 24, by emailing

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