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North Dakota Closer Than Idaho to Potato Deal with Cuba

North Dakota Closer Than Idaho to Potato Deal with Cuba

North Dakota has a verbal agreement with Cuba to sell 100 tons of seed potatoes to the island nation.

Idaho has no such agreement, according to Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s press secretary, Jon Hanian. “We still have a lot of irons in the fire,” he said.

In April, Otter and a group of 34 Idahoans from agricultural agencies, commissions and private companies traveled to Cuba to try to reach a similar agreement about Idaho potatoes.

The North Dakota sale is contingent on a field inspection by Cuban agricultural officials. According to both the North Dakota and Idaho governors’ press offices, a shared system of inspections and certification must be developed and finalized before any potatoes are shipped.

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson spoke at a news conference from Havana on May 24, where a group of North Dakota growers, processors and government officials had been negotiating with Cuban officials over purchase of North Dakota commodities. Most of the negotiations were conducted with Pedro Alvarez, the president and CEO of Alimport, the Cuban food buying agency.

Idaho’s trade delegation, led by Otter in April, participated in the same process with Alvarez.

U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, ND, also participated in the news conference by phone from Washington, calling the contingent deal a “sale.”

“The agricultural sales that Commissioner Johnson announced this morning are good news for North Dakota’s farmers, and his work deserves to be commended,” said Dorgan.

Dorgan was one of a group of members of Congress which included former Congressman and now Governor Otter, who worked to end the 40-year food and medicine embargo against Cuba.

About Jill Kuraitis

Jill Kuraitis is an award-winning journalist who specializes in news of Idaho and the Rocky Mountain West. Her B.A. in theatre management is from UC Santa Barbara, and she went on to work in theatre, film, and politics before writing became a career. Kuraitis has two excellent grown children and lives in Boise with her husband of 30 years, abundant backyard wildlife, and two huge hairy dogs.