Tobacco Farmers Look To New Markets In Cuba

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SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. (CBSMiami/AP) — Tobacco farmers in Connecticut have their eye on new markets in Cuba as public health initiatives are stemming cigar and cigarette sales in the United States.

Several months after President Barack Obama renewed diplomatic relations between the United States and the island nation’s communist government, ending a 54-year freeze, proposed legislation in Congress would lift trade restrictions.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., is scheduled to appear Friday with a South Windsor farmer and agriculture officials urging passage of the trade measure.

Ed Kasheta Jr., whose Kasheta Farms was founded by his great-great-grandfather in 1906, welcomes the prospect of selling tobacco to Cuba, which is known for its own cigar-making industry.

“I think it’s one more place to reach out to,” he said.

Murphy is a cosponsor of the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act, which would remove the president’s authority to continue the embargo and eliminate enforcement of the embargo and prohibition on Cuban imports.

Related: Airlines Eager To Connect With Cuba

Connecticut’s junior senator said he wants to hear from farmers about how lifting the trade embargo would promote economic growth for tobacco growers, farms and food processors in Connecticut.

Tobacco farms were once common in the Connecticut River Valley in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Kasheta, whose farm — down to 15 acres from 50 — grows tobacco for use as filler or wrappers. Markets are disappearing as smoking declines, he said.

Related: Cuba Says No Normalization Without Lifting Of Embargo

“Everyone is on an anti-smoking kick,” he said.

In addition, cigar smoking has changed, shifting to “gourmet cigars and weekend smokers,” Kasheta said.

“You don’t get these hard-core tobacco smokers anymore,” he said.

Click here to read more about U.S.- Cuba Relations.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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