Capitol Alert

California Assembly members heading to Cuba

In this March 22, 2013 file photo, miniature flags representing Cuba and the U.S. are displayed on the dash of an American classic car in Havana, Cuba.
In this March 22, 2013 file photo, miniature flags representing Cuba and the U.S. are displayed on the dash of an American classic car in Havana, Cuba. AP

Taking advantage of the United States’ move to re-establish relations with Cuba, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Democrats will travel on a farm-focused trade mission to the island nation.

“It is important for California to also engage with Cuba and expand economic relationships that create new opportunities for businesses in our state,” Atkins said in a press release. “The Assembly wants to do everything we can to create more jobs and business in California, and this trade delegation is one way to help California companies gain a competitive edge.”

The emphasis will be on agriculture, with participants including Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, and agriculture organizations and businesses like the California Rice Commission, a wine company and almond producers. They will be meeting with Cuban trade officials, among others, Perea said.

The idea for the trip emerged after President Obama moved to relax a longstanding trade embargo, Perea said, and the Assembly member reached out to growers in his district.

“It turned out there’s a lot of interest,” Perea said in an interview. “Many of our growers see this as a big opportunity.”

That pursuit of foreign markets for California’s massive farm industry echoes Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2013 trade mission to China, when the governor was joined by representatives of California’s dairy, beef, rice and berry industries seeking an opening.

Also on the trip will be members of Californians Building Bridges, an organization that has for years taken lawmakers to Cuba in service of its vision of fostering better relations. The group was founded by Darius Anderson, a prominent Sacramento lobbyist.

Nine Democratic Assembly members plan to be in Cuba during the upcoming spring legislative recess on a trip stretching from March 30 to April 3. Members will be paying for the trip themselves, a spokesman for Atkins’ office said. Meanwhile, members of the Senate will be in Japan.

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.

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