Iowa State Council

Karey Claghorn, Chief Operating Officer
Iowa Soybean Association

Kirk Leeds, Chief Executive Officer
Iowa Soybean Association

Kurt Hora, Vice-President
Iowa Corn Growers Association

Leslie K. Wilson, Dean
University of Northern Iowa College of Business Administration

Mark Settle, Educational Consultant
Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Mike Tousley, Executive Vice President
The Weitz Company, LLC

Rand Fisher, President
Iowa Area Development Group

Ryan Carroll, International Trade Manager
Greater Des Moines Partnership

Steve Dust, President and CEO
Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and TechWorks Campus

Tim Woods, President, Central Iowa Chapter
International Traders of Iowa

Tom Chapman, Executive Director
Iowa Catholic Conference

Tom Swegle, CEO
MedCara Pharmaceuticals

Valerie Newhouse, President
Iowa Lakes Community College

Wes Ehrecke, Board Member
Travel Federation of Iowa

Mike Ralston, President
Iowa Association of Business and Industry

Bill Northey, Secretary of Agriculture  
State of Iowa

Bishop Richard Pates
Catholic Diocese of Des Moines

Bob Hemesath, President
Iowa Corn Growers Association

Chad Kleppe, President and CEO
Master Builders of Iowa

Charlie Norris, Director
Iowa Farm Bureau Federation

Cheryl Langston, Chair
Iowa Association of Community College Trustees

Craig Hill, President
Iowa Farm Bureau Federation

Daniel Seufferlein, Partner
Ackley, Kopecky & Kingery LLP

David Holm, Executive Director
Iowa Institute for Cooperatives

Dimy Doresca, Director
University of Iowa Institute for International Business

Downing Thomas, Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs
University of Iowa

Dr. Wendy Wintersteen, Dean
Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Evan Berquist, Attorney
Frederikson and Byron

Farzad Moussavi, Director of Global Programs
University of Northern Iowa College of Business Administration

Grant Kimberley, Executive Director
Iowa Biodiesel Board

Jay Byers, Chief Executive Officer
Greater Des Moines Partnership

Jerry Mohr, Chair
Iowa Corn Growers Association

Op-Ed: Des Moines Register: Restrictions on Cuba Hold Iowans Back

by James Williams and Bob Hemesath

Ending the travel and trade restrictions with Cuba would provide tremendous opportunities for Iowa businesses and enable economic mobility for the Cuban people. While the Obama administration has eased some restrictions on travel to and trade with Cuba, it’s time for Congress to lift the embargo, which harms Iowa business and hinders economic opportunities for the Cuban people.

Iowa Public Television: Vilsack Hosts Cuban Agricultural officials in Iowa

Sec. Tom Vilsack/USDA:  “We have a tremendous opportunity in Cuba to expand exports of soybeans, rice and poultry at some point.  They in turn have a tremendous opportunity to import into the U.S. organic production – high value-added opportunity.  Trade must be a two way street.” Last week USDA chief Tom Vilsack hosted a Cuban agricultural delegation in his home state of Iowa.  The historic event gave the group a glimpse into agribusiness diversity in a region that leads the U.S. in several farm production sectors.

KCRG: Agribusiness Report: Cuba Delegation Explores Ag Science and Technology

In a historic delegation to Iowa by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and the Cuban Minister of Agriculture Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero, science and technology were big topics. And it started out on a local level according to Vilsack, "The questions the minister asked could have easily been asked by me to his farmers it is universal that's why we entered into a Memorandum of Understanding."

WNAX: Engage Coalition Formed in Iowa

The Engage Cuba Coalition was formed in Iowa this weekend when Cuba’s Ag Minister visited the Hawkeye state. Engage member Grant Kimberly, who serves as Market Development Director for the Iowa Soybean Association, says the Cubans are very interested in U.S. seed technology.

WHO-TV: Historic Visit By Cuba Delegation

In a historic trip, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and the Agriculture Minister of Cuba Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero was in Iowa as part of a delegation. It's the third official visit from Cuba, the third meeting between agriculture secretaries, and the first visit to Iowa by a Cuban official since July 2004. Then it was a veterinarian to open up the U.S. red meat industry.

KCRG-TV: Lobbying Group Forms Iowa Council on Lifting Cuba Trade Embargo

A group lobbying to restore trade with Cuba is starting a council here in Iowa. Engage Cuba's new Iowa state council is made up of more than two dozen Iowa industry leaders and government officials, including Iowa's secretary of agriculture. They plan to urge Congress to end trade embargoes and make agribusiness exports to Cuba easier.

Sioux City Journal: Vilsack, Cuban Counterpart Visit Iowa

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Cuban Agriculture Minister Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero spent Friday touring highlights of Iowa farming and searching for common ground for agriculture as a starting point for normalizing relations between the two countries. Vilsack and Rollero made stops at DuPont Pioneer's Johnston operations, an organic farm near Polk City, Iowa State University’s Ames campus and a renewable fuels plant near Nevada to showcase Iowa’s agricultural diversity. 

The Quad-City Times: Vilsack gives Cuban Minister Taste of Iowa Ag

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Cuban Agriculture Minister Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero spent Friday touring highlights of Iowa farming and searching for common ground with agriculture as a starting point for normalizing relations between two countries at odds for decades.

Our Quad Cities: Engage Cuba Launches its Iowa State Council

A 55-year economic stalemate with Cuba is gradually easing as the united states lifts travel and trade restrictions. Now, the Iowa agricultural industry could play a big role in moving that along. That's why top officials are joining Engage Cuba, a group urging congress to lift the embargo completely. Its made up of Iowa's top agricultural businesses and humanitarian officials. They're urging congress to end the "trade embargo" so Iowa exports can boom.

Radio Iowa: Cuban Ag Secretary Visits Iowa Farm to Talk Trade

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and his Cuban counterpart Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero toured a central Iowa corn and soybean farm todayand talked about water, soil, and energy. Vilsack — with an interpreter behind him — says he wants to see the ban on exports is lifted. “I sincerely hope that at some point in time in the near future Congress sees the wisdom of ending the embargo — allowing us to have an even closer relationship,” Vilsack says.

Radio Iowa: Engage Cuba Coalition Launches in Iowa

The Engage Cuba Coalition is launching a state council in Iowa. Coalition president James Williams spoke at a news conference in Des Moines where he says the goal is to lift the trade embargo with Cuba. “It’s failed, it’s failed the United States, it’s failed the people of Iowa, and it’s failed the Cuban people to live a better life themselves,” Williams says.

WHOTV: Engage Cuba Coalition Urging Iowans to Put Pressure on Politicians

Last summer, President Obama began renewing relations with Cuba by opening the U.S. Embassy. However, the effort to lift the Cuba's trade embargo is still far from over. In order for those restrictions to be lifted, Congress must approve it. That hasn't happened yet but an out of state lobbyist group visiting Des Moines Friday is urging local leaders to put pressure on the politicians.

Des Moines Register: Iowa Farmer Hosts Top Cuba officials, Gets Cigars

Only a few years ago, it wouldn't have seemed possible. But on Friday morning, Aaron Heley Lehman's organic farm in Polk City played host to some of Cuba's top governmental officials. "It's just unbelievable," Lehman said. He recently had cleaned up the yard and mowed the lawn in anticipation of a visit from Cuban Agriculture Minister Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. 

We Are Iowa: Cuba & Iowa Officials Meet, Talk Agribusiness in Central Iowa

Cuban officials are visiting Iowa’s top agricultural officials Friday. It’s been 55 years since the economic embargo and trade restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba. Today, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack toured four central Iowa agriculture farms and businesses with the Cuban Minister of Agriculture Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero.

Des Moines Register: Vilsack Hopes Meeting Will Push Congress on Cuba Trade Deal

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he is optimistic a visit with his Cuban counterpart Friday in Iowa can help build pressure on Congress to fully lift the embargo on trade with the communist country. The White House announced in late 2014 efforts to improve relations with Cuba's communist regime, including expanding trade. 

AgWeb: Trade Groups Push Promise of Cuba for U.S. Farmers

Opening the door to U.S. ag exports to Cuba could reap substantial gains for U.S. farmers, who have lost market share to competitors in Asia and Latin America, according to a new ag trade report. The report, written by a pair of groups calling for an end to the 1960 trade embargo with Cuba, touted the potential of full access to Cuba’s market for American farmers in six states: Iowa, Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and North Dakota.

Tama News-Herald, Toledo Chronicle: Iowa Delegation Pleased with Trade Mission Efforts in Havana, Cuba

Trust, confidence and forging lasting bonds that will benefit both Iowans and Cubans. That's the message from Iowa legislators and participants who just returned from a trade mission to Havana, hoping to create economic and business agreements between Iowa business owners and entrepreneurs and the Cuban people.

CBS: What Do Iowans See in Cuba? Opportunity

Some Iowans hope a trip to a place few could travel to before--Cuba--will bring new connections and possibilities for themselves and the state. The Obama administration formally reopened ties with Havana, Cuba in late 2014, and an agreement reached between the U.S. and Cuba in 2015 resumed commercial air travel for the first time in more than half a century.

The Gazette: Two Iowa lawmakers leading trade mission to Cuba

Two Democratic state legislators announced Thursday they will lead a delegation visiting Cuba next week looking to form relationships between Cuba and Iowa in order to open up options for potential future trade. Sen. Steve Sodders, D-Marshalltown, and Rep. Kristen Running-Marquardt, D-Cedar Rapids, said they will be meeting with representatives from the Cuban government and business leaders to focus on fostering new business opportunities between Iowa and Cuba.

Cedar Rapids Gazette: Some Iowans worried about Trump's new Cuba restrictions

The nearly 60-year-old embargo is harmful for Iowa farmers while other nations benefit from trade with a country just 90 miles from U.S. shores, added Jerry Mohr, an at-large director of the Iowa Corn Growers Association and a member of Iowa’s Engage Cuba Coalition state council, a national nonpartisan organization working to end travel and trade restrictions on Cuba.

Des Moines Register: Iowa Lawmakers See Trade Opportunities in Cuba 

Two Iowa legislators have returned from a trade mission to Cuba saying they see a potential for business ties with the Caribbean nation, but were struck by its lack of infrastructure and a lack of basic public services that Americans take for granted.

Times-Republican: Iowa-Cuba Relationship Continues to Develop

President Obama's announcement this week he will travel to Cuba next month reaffirms a local lawmaker's efforts in trying to establish economic ties between the island nation and the state of Iowa. On Friday, state Sen. Steve Sodders of State Center, spoke with members of the Iowa Valley Continuing Education's Creative Retirement Program, about last month's trip by an 11-member delegation from Iowa to Havana.

Daily Iowan: Cuba May Aid Iowa Farmers

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was among a group of American officials who accompanied President Obama on his historic visit to Cuba on Monday, and Iowa farmers are seeing dollar signs. Vilsack met with Cuban Minister of Agriculture Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero “to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that establishes a framework for sharing ideas and research between the two countries,” said a statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture released Monday.


It’s not very often that you hear or see a salaried U.S. corporate media employee defend Fidel Castro and Che Guevara’s Cuban Revolution and its accomplishments. That’s why I did a double take when I read a recent opinion piece titled “Cuba’s Success Lost in Media Frenzy” in the Gannett-owned Iowa City Press-Citizen. The commentary was not written by some radical academic or graduate student at the local university (I’m not sure such a professor can be found at the University of Iowa anymore) or by an independent radical like me (I have a long record of publishing pieces in the Press-Citizen’s laudably open-minded Opinion page).


You may recall a story last month about an Iowa City family’s two-pronged Christmas trip to Cuba to assist at a church and tour Havana. Now you can get a vivid local perspective about what’s going on with our embargoed island neighbor through an excellent 11-minute video compiled by two talented members of June Braverman’s family on that trip. Title “The Braverman’s Brigade Goes to Cuba,” the video shows the Americans helping church members with piano lessons, planting an organic garden, teaching teens how to videotape their community, leading Christmas carols and much more. 


There is the possibility of increased trade and agricultural goods, which farm groups like the American Farm Bureau are pushing for. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley isn’t buying into the efforts to normalize relations and he’s less interested in ending the trade embargo, even if it means more ag sales to Cuba. He says in the give and take part, Cuba is more on the taking end. And even without an end to the embargo, he says farm sales to Cuba have increased, “There’s already a provisions that have even been liberalized beyond what they’ve been through maybe ten years for agricultural foods to go there along with medicine, pharmaceuticals, medicinal things. So I don’t know whether we have to be so concerned just for agriculture.”


As a University of Iowa senior studying political science and psychology, Jake Murphy long has been intrigued by Cuba. The island nation’s political and economic isolation from the United States since the 1960s has made it a sort of “forbidden fruit” for Americans, Murphy said. “So when (President Barack) Obama announced the relationship would be renewed, and they are relaxing some embargoes, I was in shock,” he said. “It was finally happening, and I thought it was so cool.”  


A man facing federal firearms charges in Iowa who attempted to escape prosecution by fleeing to Cuba has entered plea agreements with U.S. prosecutors. Court records say Shawn Michael Wegmann signed plea agreements last week for failure to appear and for four firearms counts. He faces up to 45 years in prison. Wegmann admits to stealing more than 0 guns in burglaries last year in Iowa and Illinois. He had previous felony convictions and was barred from possessing guns. 


Many American businesses believe re-establishing trade with Cuba will prove a financial windfall, allowing them to bring their products and services to a market that’s been all but forbidden over the last five decades. Tom Swegle has his eyes on Cuba for the opposite reason. “We always talk about trade going into Cuba,” he said, “but not what is going out of Cuba, besides cigars and old cars.” 


After visiting Cuba back in January, State Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt returned with a refreshed appreciation for democracy. And toilet paper. Running-Marquardt, a Cedar Rapids Democrat, and Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, who also visited the island nation 90 miles off the Florida coast, recommend President Barack Obama take his own supply when visits Cuba later this month.

State Senator Steve Sodders (D) Represents District 36 Sponsors SR 6, Resolution Urging the US Congress to Lift the Cuban Embargo

State Senator Steve Sodders (D)

Represents District 36

Sponsors SR 6, Resolution Urging the US Congress to Lift the Cuban Embargo