Congresswoman Chellie Pingree met with Ambassador Jeffery DeLaurentis at the American embassy in Havana on May 3,2016, where the two discussed the economic benefits that will come with opening of trade between the US and Cuba.
"There is tremendous opportunity for trade between the US and Cuba, which will create jobs and grow the economies of both countries," Pingree said. "There is a particularly good opportunity in agriculture. Before the embargo, most of the food going into Cuba came from the US, and it could happen again. But trade has to be two-way, and it's important for the Cubans to see there is interest in buying what they produce—particularly if they are able to maintain their organic practices."
A recent study from Texas A & M University said opening up trade between the two countries would be worth over $1 billion to the US agricultural sector and create at least 6,000 new jobs.
Pingree and DeLaurentis discussed the political and economic changes happening in Cuba and the prospect of increased trade between the two countries. Pingree is leading a delegation of organic experts from Maine and around the country on a four-day trip to Cuba. The group will meet with farmers, small business owners, educators and government officials during the trip.
"We want to help develop relationships in the food and farming world between Americans and their Cuban counterparts. The US and Cuba have made an incredible amount of progress over the last few months, and the more personal and commercial relationships we can establish, the more irreversible this progress becomes," Pingree said.
Cuba lost access to most fertilizers and pesticides after the fall of the Soviet Union, and was forced to develop organic and urban farming practices to keep their farms going.
"When the embargo eventually is lifted the Cubans will have more choices in what their agriculture system looks like—they will have more access to chemicals if they want them. We aren’t here to tell them what they should do—but we do want to share what we know about the organic market in the US," Pingree said.
Congresswoman Pingree is the second member of Maine's congressional delegation to visit Cuba after Senator Collins visited the island last summer.