by Avery Davidson, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation
Have you ever heard the song "Going back to Cali" by LL Cool J? It's popped in my head every time I've tried to type up this blog post. I keep rapping "I'm going back to Cuba, Cuba, Cuba. I'm going back to Cuba. Yeah, I think so" when I think about this trip. It's such a blessing to get the opportunity to return to this nation which is only 90 miles from the United States, but distant ideologically.
On my first trip with Congressmen Ralph Abraham of Louisiana and Rick Crawford of Arkansas in April, I couldn't help but think about my former boss and friend, Mike Danna. He always wanted to go to Cuba. Don Molino from the Louisiana Farm Bureau Agri-News Radio Network would always remind Mike that he had been to Cuba. Now, here I am going two times in one year. I can only imagine that it's Mike's spirit guiding this opportunity.
Already, things have changed in Cuba since April. The El Trigal wholesale Farmers' Market is now closed. The Cuban government claims there was corruption in the management. Paul Johnson with the US Agriculture Coalition for Cuba thinks it was a response to too much capitalism too fast and the government's way of blaming rising food prices on farmers making a profit. Regardless, I think it's a sad situation for farmers who don't have access to American seed, fertilizer or machinery.
Agriculture is again the focus of this trip. Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation 1st Vice-President Jim Harper, Secretary/Treasurer Mike Melancon, board member Marty Wooldridge and sugarcane farmer Greg Gravois are all on this trip. They want to see first hand the state of Cuba's agricultural industries and better understand the culture of our neighbors.
If they experience anything like my previous trip, they'll find that the Cuban people are kind, giving and compassionate. They'll find that Old Havana is a lot like the New Orleans French Quarter. They'll also find that Cuban farmers are living 60 years in the past. 127 farmers on a 1,200 acre cooperative raising corn, dairy and beef cattle share a 1949 tractor. Their American counterparts see six times the yields of corn on the same area of land. 90% of food eaten by the 11 million Cubans is imported from another country, usually not the United States.
What will really make this trip different from the last is I'm going with friends - close friends. Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain is on the trip, as is his press secretary, Veronica Mosgrove; a colleague and friend from my days at KATC-TV in Lafayette in the 1990s. Tammi Arrender from KNOE TV in Monroe is on the trip, and we first met shortly after I went to WAFB TV in Baton Rouge in 1999. These are people I love and trust. It's going to be great sharing this experience with them.
So, in the coming days, I'll do more radio reports, blog a bit and shoot lots of video. I'll miss my wife, Lauren, and my boys. I wish I could pack them up on every trip.
So, I'm going back to Cuba, Cuba, Cuba. Will it be a great trip? Yeah, I think so.