Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe sees Cuba as a land of opportunity.
Amid President Barack Obama’s historic trip to Cuba this past week, McAuliffe said in an interview that Virginia already has made impressive headway in tapping the island nation’s export market.
"Virginia now is the number one exporter of ag (agricultural) products to Cuba," McAuliffe said during a March 21 MSNBC interview. "We have now jumped to number one."
In January, the governor returned from a trip to Cuba aimed at bolstering the commonwealth’s commercial ties with the nation. The U.S. still has a decades-long embargo on most trade with Cuba. But a 2000 law allows limited exports of agricultural products and medical equipment. In 2014, Obama re-established formal diplomatic relations with Cuba.
McAuliffe supports ending the trade embargo.
Brian Coy, the governor’s spokesman, pointed us to a Feb. 12 news release where McAuliffe announced that last year Virginia exported $41.6 million in agricultural goods to Cuba, all of it soybeans and soybean meal. In past years, Virginia also has shipped apples, poultry and beef. McAuliffe said the 2015 export tally was the most that any state had sent to Cuba that year.
We tracked down the same trade figures through an online database provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It shows that in 2015, Virginia’s $41.6 million indeed was the most of any state, followed by Georgia, which had $30.9 million in agricultural exports to Cuba; and Florida, which had $29.9 million in exports.