Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri announced on Wednesday that she will take a trip to Cuba next month to explore how farmers and other businesses in her state might benefit from opening Cuban markets to U.S. agriculture products.
McCaskill, a Democrat, told reporters in a press call that she had been planning to travel to Cuba before the president announced his intention to normalize relations with the communist state last month, but she feels “a sense of urgency now.”
Her visit to Cuba will come as members of Congress from both sides of the aisle explore the possibility of lifting the Cuban embargo, a move McCaskill supports.
“The policy that has been in place for over five decades has not worked for the people of Cuba,” McCaskill said. “From a selfish standpoint, it’s terrific for Missouri agriculture.”
McCaskill said she will talk to the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week about the opportunities for American exports in Cuba, in preparation for her trip.
“I want to learn as much as I can about what barriers remain before I go to Cuba and which commodities are most likely to have success in Cuba,” she said.
The Senator’s meetings during her visit next month will be set up by the Center for Democracy in the Americas, a nonprofit advocacy group that previously has paid for members of Congress to travel to Cuba, including U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Kansas City.
McCaskill, however, will be paying for her trip out of her own pocket.
“I’ve never taken a trip sponsored by any group in the entire time I’ve been in the Senate,” she said. “I’m not really worried about undue influence one way or another.”