Reps. Davis and Bustos Return from Bipartisan Agricultural Trade Mission to Cuba
Trade Mission Focused on Improving Relations and Working to Increase Exports
U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) recently returned to the United States from the Illinois Cuba Working Group’s Bipartisan Agricultural Trade Mission to Havana. To establish new economic opportunities for Illinois farmers, Davis, Bustos, and Illinois agricultural and business leaders met with Cuban officials to discuss opportunities to increase our exports to the island nation and strengthen bilateral trade relations.
Their busy trip included meetings with the Cuban National Association of Small Farmers; Rev. Dr. Ofelia Ortega, a member of the Cuban National Assembly; Mr. Gustavo Machín Gómez, Deputy Director General of the U.S. Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Mr. Marcelino Medina González, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs; Ms. Llena Núñez Mordeche, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment; and Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the American Ambassador to Cuba. The trade mission also included tours of a Cuban farm cooperative and Port Mariel, the Cuban port closest to the United States.
“Our bipartisan agricultural trade mission gave me valuable firsthand insight into how the Cuban economy operates and what it will take to ramp up Illinois' agricultural exports,” said Bustos. “While we have made real progress in the last year toward improving bilateral trade relations with Cuba, we still have a lot of work to do to cut through the red tape that holds back our family farmer's ability to export. Improving our trade relations presents opportunities for both nations and I'm committed to continuing the dialog and fostering the relationships to ensure that Illinois's agricultural community is well positioned to benefit from normalizing trade.”
Davis and Bustos went to Cuba as part of a bipartisan agricultural trade mission to establish new economic development and export opportunities for Illinois farmers. The Oct. 11-14 trip was sponsored by the Illinois Cuba Working Group and spent no taxpayer funds. Other trade mission participants included Paul Johnson, Executive Director of the Illinois Cuba Working Group & President of Chicago Foods International; Todd Maisch, President and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce; Adam Nielsen, Illinois Farm Bureau Director of National Legislation; Don Duvall, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Director for District 13; Craig Ratajczyk, Chief Executive Officer of Illinois Soybean Association; and Julie Maschoff of Maschoff Farms.
Since 1960, the Cuban embargo has prevented most American trade with Cuba. However, there are exemptions for agricultural exports. According to the Illinois Cuba Working Group, Illinois corn and soy exports to Cuba reached approximately $66 million in 2008. However, in 2014, it was just $24 million, a 63% decrease. U.S. Representatives Davis and Bustos, as well as the Illinois Cuba Working Group, engaged stakeholders from both nations on ways to increase Illinois’ agricultural exports.