- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Democratic members of the California Assembly announced Thursday that they’re heading to Cuba for a five-day agricultural trade mission next week as the U.S. considers easing economic restrictions against the island nation.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Assemblyman Henry Perea, a Fresno Democrat who chairs the agriculture committee, will lead seven other lawmakers while the Legislature is in spring recess. They will be joined by ranchers, farmers and Darius Anderson, a Sacramento lobbyist who also leads trade missions to Cuba.

The lobbyist’s group, Californians Building Bridges, is helping organize this trip.

President Barack Obama is seeking to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba after a 50-year U.S. ban on trade and travel. Officials in California, the nation’s top food producer, see an opportunity to do more business and trade, including for other sectors such as telecommunications, construction and banking.

“This trade delegation is one way to help California companies gain a competitive edge,” Atkins said in a prepared statement.

The 27-person delegation will meet with Cuban officials, including farmers and business leaders, and learn about the nation’s economy.

Lawmakers must pay for the trip themselves, said John Casey, a spokesman for Atkins. The trip is between March 30 and April 3.

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