Colorado farmers and ranchers are hoping to cash in on Cuban markets after the Obama administration relaxed some U.S. trade embargoes, but they say it won't be easy.

Joe Schuele, spokesman for the U.S. Meat Export Federation in Denver, said Cuban consumers will need to earn more money before Colorado meat producers can make inroads in the Cuban markets.

Bill Hammerich, CEO of Colorado Livestock Association in Greeley, said politics will also play a role.

"We obviously are supporters of free and fair trade; and as long as there aren't political implications, human rights issues and those kinds of things, we would be in full support of opening it up, at least within the limitations that are currently in place," he said.

Larry Lande, owner of Northern Feed and Bean in Lucerne, said there are markets for Colorado's pinto bean growers on the largely black bean-dominated market.

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The presidential announcement on restoring diplomatic relations has sparked hope that one day Cuba could provide another robust market for Weld County beans in Latin America, alongside the Dominican Republic and Mexico, Lande said.

"It's not going to happen overnight. It will take a little time, but I think it's going to lead to a possible market again for beans, and it's a good-sized market," he said.

Tom Lipetzky, director of marketing programs and strategic initiatives for the Colorado Department of Agriculture, said Colorado's piece of the Cuban pie is minimal to none, in large part because of decisions made by Alimport, the Cuban trade body that dictates which imports may enter the country.

Agricultural and medical exports to Cuba have been permitted to some extent since 2000, but political and financial barriers have persisted in preventing stronger trade relations with the Caribbean nation, the Greeley Tribune reported (http://tinyurl.com/kw7t7w7).

While Colorado produces many products that could be of interest to Cuba, particularly low-cost grains, Colorado has not established the same relations with Cuba or favor with Alimport as many other states have.

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