Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Trade and Development Mission to Romania – Day 1

Commissioner Staples traveled to Romania March 29 - April 1 for a trade and development mission to Romania as an invitee of the Emanuel Agriculture Development Corporation. The trip serves many purposes: to establish a trade relationship that will foster bi-national commerce between Texas and Romania and to assist Romanian farmers and ranchers by sharing ideas that can improve their agriculture industry. Below is a day-by-day account of Commissioner Staples’ visit to Romania.

See a slideshow of his trip here:

Our flight brought us into Hungary ahead of our Texas group. While we waited, we tried to visit the U.S. Embassy located just a stone’s throw off the Danube River, which runs through Budapest. It always sends extra chills down my spine when I see Old Glory flying on a building in a foreign country and am reminded of the sacrifices soldiers have made over the course of time to allow our flag to fly freely. Unfortunately, it was a weekend, and we were unable to get to see the inside.

When the others arrived, we drove for almost four hours into Oradea, Romania, and had a really late dinner with the president and dean of the business school at Emanuel University, both impressive people. The president was a strong proponent of the move toward a democracy and away from communism.

This private college is attempting to incorporate agriculture business classes in its curriculum and has signed a memorandum of understanding with Texas Tech University for professors to come teach. The goal is to establish a dairy or greenhouse operation to use as a teaching and demonstration project.

Romania is a great place to explore new agribusiness initiatives. The country imports 70 percent of its food items. Since the fall of communism 20 years ago, agriculture has not developed as an industry. U.S. agricultural exports to Romania have fallen by about 50 percent since the country joined the European Union.

Emmanuel Agriculture Development Corporation, founded by Stan Ray of Austin (a former state FFA officer and vice president of Farm Credit of Texas) spearheaded the delegation and asked me to participate.

With the proposed and often debated changes to our national farm policy, it is essential Texas farmers and ranchers continuously explore new and expanded trade opportunities to maintain profitability. The Romanian people have come a long way toward embracing a democratic society with free market principles, and by supporting them, Americans can also further their interests.

We have a full schedule for the following two days that I will fill you in on. For now, it has been a long day and even these dorm rooms with single thin mattresses and the hot water already cut off are looking pretty good.

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