Illinois agriculture reps, Congress members return from Cuba

imagesMembers of the Illinois Cuba Working Group and others traveled to Cuba to talk trade and opportunity.

Several members of the Illinois agriculture community have spent the week in Cuba, with the stated goal of opening up agricultural trade with Cuba, which creates jobs and opportunities for Illinoisans.

During the mission, the delegation met with representatives from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Investment and Economic Cooperation, Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cuban Ministry of Agriculture, U.S Embassy, Alimport and business leaders. They also toured farms, cooperatives and local private markets.

Illinois Cuba tour members include:

• Cheri Bustos, Congresswoman representing Illinois’ 17th District

• Rodney Davis, Congressman representing Illinois’ 13th District

• Todd Maisch, CEO, Illinois Chamber of Commerce

• Craig Ratajczyk, CEO, Illinois Soybean Growers

• Julie Maschoff, The Maschoffs

• Wesley Uhlmeyer, ADM

• Brock Gavin, Andre Carioba

• Bob Crain, AGCO

• Adam Nielsen, Illinois Farm Bureau

• Alex Winter-Nelson, University of Illinois

• Paul Johnson, Illinois Cuba Working Group

• Lynn Rohrscheib, board member, Illinois Soybean Association

• Daryl Cates, board member, Illinois Soybean Association

In 1999, Illinois became the first state to have a sitting governor lead a delegation to Cuba since the 1959 revolution. In 2013, the Illinois General Assembly passed a unanimous resolution calling for the end to the embargo, improved trade relations with Cuba and the creation of an Illinois-Cuba working group.

The ICWG, established as a result of the Illinois resolution, has been a leader in improving trade relations with Cuba. Illinois agriculture groups are the backbone of the ICWG. They have exhibited at the Havana International Trade Fair the past two years.

Trade officials estimate that at least 20% of Cuba’s U.S. corn and soy imports originate from Illinois due to the state’s abundance of those crops, our commitment to quality and access to rivers and railroads. According to the Federation of International Trade Associations, based on World Trade Organization data, Cuba imports about 80% of the food it rations to the public.

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