Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin last week proposed to establish agricultural trade relations with Cuba at the annual Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture’s conference held in Kentucky, he announced at a press conference last Thursday.

The proposal, which corresponds with legislation now pending in Congress that could relax restrictions on food and medicine exports to Cuba, was passed at the conference and subsequently sent to the U.S. State Department for consideration, he said.

The commissioner, who is leading a delegation to China this week, said that he has been lobbying for approval to head a Georgia trade mission to Cuba for several months. He said he would like to see Georgia and Cuba develop bilateral agricultural trade relations.

 “Our chicken is being diverted by Canada and sent down to Cuba already,” he said. “It’s not good sense to let that continue.”

He also said that Georgia could benefit from importing some of Cuba’s agricultural products during the state’s off-season.

Mr. Irvin, who lobbied for the passage of permanent normal trade relations with China last month, said that during the Cold War he had been the first state agricultural commissioner to propose trading agricultural products with the then-Soviet Union and had encountered some hostility to his ideas. Now, however, “attitudes about selling to communist countries have softened,” he said.

The commissioner spoke to the press following a presentation he attended at Global Food Exchange, an Atlanta-based online food distributor that is taking part in the China trade mission this week.

Call the department at (404) 656-3689.