Cuba Today, China Tomorrow 

When it comes to communist nations, Cuba is yesterday's news—Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter is focused on China now.

Otter and a group of Idaho business leaders recently returned from a trip to China in an effort to ink a few trade deals with the quickly growing industrial nation. So far, there are deals for compressed hay and pork, and talk of future beef deals.

"China already is the No. 1 international destination for Idaho products," Otter said in a written release. "But relative to the potential that's there, we have barely scratched the surface.

"China offers great opportunities for profit, job creation and more economy diversity," he said.

Larsen Farms Hay Terminal of Dubois has agreed to send 500 tons of compressed hay each month to China, a deal is worth $1.5 million per year. Additionally, Independent Meat of Twin Falls has orders for six containers of pork, worth roughly $300,000.

And while North Dakota beat Idaho to the punch when it came to a potato deal with Cuba, trip participants are counting on China to jump on the state's signature crop.

"China produces and consumes more potatoes than any other country in the world," said Frank Muir, president of the Idaho Potato Commission. "It represents a huge opportunity for Idaho potato products in all forms."

In 2006, Idaho exported more than $731 million in goods to China, and, to date, exports in 2007 total more than $712 million. Topping the list of exported goods are semiconductors, followed by industrial equipment, farm machinery, food processing equipment, paper products and agricultural products.

So what's next for our globe-trotting governor? The release did mention something about opening Russian markets.

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