NAWG and almost 30 other groups recently wrote Members of Congress, urging them to cosponsor a bill House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) will introduce to ease trade and travel restrictions with Cuba.
Peterson and Moran have been working to gain original cosponsors for their bill, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, for a number of months, supported by agricultural groups like NAWG that see significant opportunity to increase sales to the island country.
The bill would take a number of steps to enhance trade with the country, including:
- requiring agricultural exports to Cuba to meet the same payment requirements as exports to other countries, including requiring payment when the title of the shipment changes hands;
- eliminating a requirement that payments to U.S. agricultural sellers must pass through banks in third countries – a restriction unique to ag products; and
- lifting restrictions on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba, which would facilitate a closer trading relationship and increase demand for high-quality food.
Since passage of the 2000 Trade Sanctions and Reform Act, U.S. farmers have seen $4 billion in sales into the Cuban market and Cubans have had an excellent payment record. However, market potential in Cuba is far from maximized due to the trade restrictions, and Cuban buyers have told U.S. wheat industry representatives that pending improvements in trade restrictions, buying from the U.S. is no longer tenable.
NAWG and U.S. Wheat have long supported any effort to ease trade restrictions with Cuba, which cost the U.S. wheat industry an estimated $40 million per year, and NAWG continues to urge all wheat producers and wheat state associations to contact their Members directly and urge them to cosponsor the bill.
On a related note, the House Agriculture Committee has scheduled a hearing to review the Cuba trade issue for next Wednesday, Feb. 10. NAWG First Vice President Jerry McReynolds, who has traveled to the island nation for trade purposes, will testify on behalf of NAWG and the wheat industry. The entire hearing should be Webcast, beginning at 11 a.m. Eastern, at http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/audio.html.
For more on Cuba trade and a copy of this week’s letter, visit www.wheatworld.org/trade.