ST. PAUL, Minn. -- President Barack Obama touched down in Cuba Sunday for a historic visit. This is the first time a sitting U.S. president has visited Cuba in 88 years.
The trip coincides with a bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill to get Congress to lift the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., are leading legislation that could make it possible. Sen. Klobuchar is leading the bipartisan Freedom to Export to Cuba Act while Rep. Emmer is the lead sponsor of a similar bill in the House.
They are joining the president, along with other Republicans and Democrats, for the trip.
"Minnesotans are ahead of the game here. We have already a relationship with sending agriculture products, selling them to Cuba under the humanitarian exemption. We do about 20 million a year. Estimates are that would double with agricultural products immediately if the trade embargo was lifted," Sen. Klobuchar said in a phone interview with KARE 11 prior to the trip.
"This is an opportunity for us to expand our markets but ultimately it's also an opportunity for the people of Cuba," said Steve Olson.
Olson, executive director of Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota, visited Cuba in December 2015.
"We like to have access to foreign markets because we feel we can compete with pretty much anybody out there," Olson said.
Olson believes lifting the trade embargo would help bring economic opportunity to Cuba and, as a result, improve the diets of many Cubans.
"There is a food scarcity issue," said U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn.
Rep. Paulsen is in favor of lifting the trade embargo but also pointed to some of the challenges.
"Eventually there's going to be more and more bipartisan support in Congress for this but at the same time, there's also a recognition that the Cuban regime has been a regime that is guilty of significant human rights abuses and... we have to address that issue," he said.