In his address at the Cuba-U.S. Relations Symposium at the University of Texas, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples announced his efforts to expand trade relations with Cuba. Commissioner Staples called on President Barack Obama to help expand trade opportunities with Cuba. The goal is to restore Cuba as a market for Texan and American products while serving Cuba’s humanitarian needs.

“Texas agricultural products are the best in the world. I want our producers to expand their trading relationships across the globe, and that includes the Cuban market,” Commissioner Staples said. “After visiting the island nation, I see the opportunity for both countries to benefit by relaxing the current trade restrictions.”

Last year, Commissioner Staples became the first statewide elected official from Texas to visit Cuba on official state business in more than 45 years. The Commissioner led a delegation of Texans, including farmers, ranchers, commodity suppliers and port representatives to identify food needs not met by domestic production.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy ordered the trade embargo with Cuba. In Oct. 2000, Congress passed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act, allowing the sale of some agricultural and medical products to Cuba.

In a recent letter to President Obama, Commissioner Staples stressed the need to further develop international markets and focused his attention on a specific national market: Cuba.

“In addition to its close proximity as our neighbor, Cuba and its people are in extreme need of America’s leadership,” Commissioner Staples wrote in his letter to the President.

“I know the diplomatic policy process with Cuba will present extensive challenges, and I ask you to move aggressively toward strong diplomatic relationships that will address concerns and allow for free and open trade with our Cuban neighbors.”

After the Commissioner’s 2008 trade mission to Cuba, Texas producers secured cotton and grain contracts totaling nearly $1 million. Earlier this week, WestStar Foods, another trade delegation member, shipped 5,000 tons of beans to Cuba from the Port of Corpus Christi and expects to deliver additional shipments later this year. Commissioner Staples said these types of deals would help expand Texas and American business.

“Our work is already creating results,” Commissioner Staples said. “We’ve laid groundwork, made great connections and expect more in the future. The sky is the limit, and I look forward to working with President Obama on this important issue.”