Bridges of grain
Wednesday, January 16, 2002
By Bud Hunt
KENNETT, Mo. -- In the not-too-distant past we have talked of something we referred to as "rice diplomacy." That editorial came on the heels of a trip to Cuba by U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson. She was accompanied by, among others, local rice farmer Paul T. Combs.
The purpose of that trip was to explore the possibilities of shipping rice to Cuba. The proximity of a major portion of the U.S. rice crop to transportation lanes convenient to Cuba -- the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico -- make that connection a natural fit.
Today (Jan. 9) a Turkish ship will leave the Port of Galveston, Texas, loaded with 300,000 tons of wheat. That shipment will be the first time in 40 years U.S.-produced wheat has been shipped to Cuba.
It is not an easy call when policy makers decide to end, even for what can be called humanitarian, shipments of food and medical supplies. Cuba has been able to purchase medical supplies from the United States since 1992.
There was a time when the embargo worked, just like there was a time for an aggressive Cold War front against the Soviet Union. Over time, that relationship moved to one of detente, an improvement in relations between the two countries, and helped to bring down the Berlin Wall and ultimately the fall of the Soviet Union.
There are good humanitarian reasons to begin shipment of foodstuffs to Cuba. And let's not be coy: It makes good business sense to give farmers another outlet for their production. According to one estimate, Cuba represents a $700 million market for the American wheat farmer. Corn and chicken products were also shipped last month.
Sending agricultural products to a needy land provides the United States one way of beginning a relationship of detente with Cuba. A stance of firmness on human rights coupled with a willingness to provide humanitarian aid should bring about the same result in Cuba as it did with Soviet Union.
Bud Hunt is the publisher of the Daily Dunklin Democrat.