Created: 3/12/10 (Fri) | Topic: Issues
AFBF urges Congress to ease Cuba trade restrictions
When it comes to competing for agricultural trade with Cuba, the United States is its own worst enemy. In testimony today before the House Agriculture Committee, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman called on congressional members to support the Travel Reform and Export Enhancement Act, or H.R. 4645, which would lift some key U.S.-imposed restrictions on trade with Cuba.
Because of the great market potential, the American Farm Bureau Federation has been an advocate for easing restrictions on exports to Cuba and is a supporter of H.R. 4645, sponsored by House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). The bill would reverse the restrictions on “payment of cash in advance,” eliminate the third country bank requirement and lift the ban on travel. According to AFBF, passage of the legislation would make agriculture a strong player in the Cuban market and increase U.S. agricultural exports.
“We have seen the promise the market holds,” said Stallman. “Unfortunately, because of restrictions on U.S exports to Cuba, U.S. farmers have not been able to benefit from the full potential of the market.”
U.S. agriculture has seen significant growth, but has also experienced significant setbacks, since being allowed to trade with Cuba in 2000. On average the United States has exported roughly $320 million in agricultural products per year since 2000, reaching a high of almost $700 million in 2008. But, said Stallman, the United States is not viewed by Cuba as a reliable supplier due to our sales restrictions and the ability of the U.S. government to “alter those restrictions at a whim.”
“Our competitors do not have the same obstacles in trading with Cuba we face,” said Stallman. “Eliminating these restrictions will decrease the advantages the United States has given our competitors and restore the advantage to U.S. farmers. These actions will make it easier for Cuba to purchase U.S. commodities and, most importantly, will reduce the cost of purchasing our commodities.”
The United States exports a variety of commodities to Cuba. Of those, grain and feed has consistently topped sales, reaching $369 million and making up more than half of agriculture’s total exports to the country in 2008. The U.S. also exports a wide range of other commodities to Cuba including oilseeds, meats and dairy.
“U.S. agriculture is not requesting the embargo be lifted, but rather for Congress to take the small step of lifting key restrictions that will increase U.S. agriculture’s competitiveness in the market,” said Stallman. “Now is the time for Congress to take action to ease some of the current trade restrictions.”