American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) president Bob Stallman has called on House Agriculture Committee congressional members to support the Travel Reform and Export Enhancement Act (HR 4645), which would lift some key US-imposed restrictions on trade with Cuba.
Cuba holds “great market potential”, according to the AFBF, which is why the association is advocating for the easing of restrictions on exports to Cuba and supporting HR 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 US agricultural exports.
“We have seen the promise the market holds,” said Mr Stallman. “Unfortunately, because of restrictions on US exports to Cuba, US farmers have not been able to benefit from the full potential of the market.”
US agriculture has seen significant growth, but has also experienced significant setbacks, since being allowed to trade with Cuba in 2000.
On average the US has exported roughly US$320m in agricultural products per year since 2000, reaching a high of almost US$700m in 2008.
But, Mr Stallman said the US is not viewed by Cuba as a reliable supplier due to sales restrictions and the ability of the US government to “alter those restrictions at a whim”.
“Our competitors do not have the same obstacles in trading with Cuba we face,” explained Mr Stallman. “Eliminating these restrictions will decrease the advantages the US has given our competitors and restore the advantage to US farmers. These actions will make it easier for Cuba to purchase US commodities and, most importantly, will reduce the cost of purchasing our commodities.
“US agriculture is not requesting the embargo be lifted, but rather for Congress to take the small step of lifting key restrictions that will increase US agriculture’s competitiveness in the market,” Mr Stallman added. “Now is the time for Congress to take action to ease some of the current trade restrictions.”