House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and 32 additional original co-sponsors introduced a bill this week to ease trade and trade restrictions with Cuba.
The bill had been anticipated for a number of months, with NAWG and other pro-trade groups urging original co-sponsorship among their constituents’ Members.
Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, H.R. 4645, would take a number of steps to enhance trade with the island country, including:
- requiring agricultural exports to Cuba to meet the same payment requirements as exports to other countries;
- 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, but market potential in Cuba is far from maximized due to the trade restrictions.
With no domestic wheat production, Cuba represents substantial potential for U.S. wheat growers. Cuba’s 11.4 million people consumed an average of 890,000 MT of wheat per year over the past ten years. 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.
Between introduction and press time, the bill had gained an additional five co-sponsors. NAWG urges wheat producers whose Members have not signed onto the legislation to encourage them to do so.
In related news, the House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on March 11 to look at trade with Cuba. That hearing was originally scheduled for Feb. 10 but was postponed due to blizzard conditions in Washington, D.C. Jerry McReynolds, who will then be NAWG president and who has traveled to the island nation for trade purposes, will testify on behalf of NAWG and the wheat industry.
More resources on the effort to ease trade restrictions with Cuba are at www.wheatworld.org/trade.