WASHINGTON - Two Minnesota Democrats are pushing for improved trade relations between the United States and Cuba on separate missions to Havana this week.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is visiting Cuba with fellow Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Mark Warner of Virginia. They're pushing for more exports of agricultural goods.
Klobuchar was one of a bipartisan group of senators who introduced legislation last week to end the five-decade embargo on Cuba following the recent thaw in relations between the two countries.
"This visit is a chance to meet with Cuban agriculture and export officials to explore ways we can modernize relations between our two countries," Klobuchar said in a statement.
Another member of the Minnesota delegation who is on the island is U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who represents the 7th District. He is part of a delegation of Democrats led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that also is focusing on trade and agriculture. Peterson has been pushing for years to ease travel restrictions on U.S. citizens to Cuba.
Although agricultural trade between Minnesota and Cuba clocked in at a modest $20 million in 2013 (limited trade has been allowed despite the embargo), the state's business community views the island as a potentially lucrative market. Agribusiness giant Cargill has helped organize a coalition of companies to press for an end to the embargo.