In early 2015, Sen. Jerry Moran applauded the
Obama Administration’s easing of U.S. sanctions
against Cuba – without mentioning the president
Restoring trade with Cuba makes sense, Moran
had said. Lifting the embargo will create additional
markets for Kansas producers of food,
fiber, merchandise, industrial products including
aircraft, and technology, among others.
“Cuba imports 80 percent of its food and is a
natural market for U.S. agriculture, especially the
hard red winter wheat grown in Kansas,” Moran
said at the time. “In fact, wheat is Cuba’s largest
food commodity import. If (not) for the embargo,
the United States could supply the Cuban demand
for wheat. In our absence, other countries are more
willing to enter this market. And just last year
(2014), Cuba purchased $150 million of wheat
from the European Union.”
Those long two and one-half years ago, we had
junked a half-century of petulant, self-defeating
policy and often asinine behavior that marked
America’s attitude toward Cuba, remarkable for its
stupidity. While America stayed away, others came
to play, and trade.
Lifting the embargo was about more than business.
Allowing U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba
was to promote freedom and liberty by example,
letting Cubans see the expression of free thought
and free market principles. “A growing Cuban
economy would increase the standard of living for
Cuban citizens,” Moran had said. “It would also
empower them to make greater demands on their
own government to increase individual and political
We were on the way. Our embassy reopened.
Among the first vibrant free travelers were visual
and performing artists; studios, ateliers, concert
and lecture halls were under refurbishment, and
supplies and equipment began to trickle in. U.S.
business and industry began to anticipate Cuban
need in manufacturing, industry, communications,
consumer goods, not to mention food and fiber,
among other things. It was an exciting time, especially
for Kansas’ agricultural exporters.
That was all before mid-2016. The presidential
election campaigns had gathered steam, and
Republicans were demanding that we reverse
course on Cuba and reinstate a moth-eaten embargo.
For some unfathomable reason, it worked.
Donald Trump insists we re-float the wall around
On Oct. 31, Sen. Pat Roberts, as if awakened
from a long sleep, recalled that he represents
a lot of Kansas farmers and ranchers and vast
regions that depend on foreign trade – and that he
is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
In a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
in Washington, Roberts spoke against Trump’s
efforts to cancel the North American Free Trade
Agreement, noting that trade inspired by NAFTA
has been a powerful economic force for Kansas
agriculture. Export markets in Mexico and Canada
were essential to stave off further erosion in crop
and livestock markets. The same can be said of the
promise in cultivating an open course with Cuba.
The best diplomacy is exchanging with people,
not shutting them out.