NAWG joined a diverse coalition of nearly 100 other organizations this week in writing Members of the House Agriculture Committee urging support of the Peterson-Moran bill to ease trade and travel restrictions against Cuba.
The coalition told Members that the bill, which would clarify payment provisions for Cuban buyers and allow U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba, “represents an opportunity to remove unjustified U.S. barriers to our own agricultural sector”.
The group said since the opportunity to sell U.S. farm goods to Cuba was opened in 2000, U.S. farmers have seen $4 billion in sales. However, the restrictions that remain in place on U.S. ag sales mean producers are failing to realize the market potential in the island nation, hurting both the Cuban people and the U.S. economy.
The coalition writing this week urged all Members of the House Agriculture Committee to cosponsor the measure, formally known as the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, H.R. 4645, and report it favorably to the full House.
The group said, in part:
“The bill simply clarifies how U.S. farmers and agricultural businesses conduct sales to Cuba and allows U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba, consistent with their ability to do so to every other country, including other U.S. sanctioned countries. These modest changes will establish and protect U.S. agriculture’s reputation as a reliable supplier and provide the opportunity to maintain and grow U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba.”
The drumbeat of activity with respect to Cuba legislation has grown louder in recent months, with the introduction of the Peterson-Moran measure in February and a House Agriculture Committee hearing on the restrictions in March, at which NAWG President Jerry McReynolds testified.
The House Ways and Means Committee’s Trade Subcommittee held its own hearing on Thursday to examine U.S. policy with respect to Cuba.
Testimony presented and Member comments showed a growing sentiment that U.S. policy toward Cuba has not fulfilled U.S. foreign policy goals and is indeed doing nothing but hampering U.S. economic competitiveness, with change long overdue.
In announcing the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman John Tanner (D-Tenn.) said, “It is clear to me that the United States’ policy toward Cuba is not working. The embargo has failed to achieve its objectives and has shut U.S. workers, farmers and businesses out of the Cuban market…It is time to expand our approach to promote U.S. economic interests and support democracy and human rights in Cuba as well.”
Another interesting comment came from a Chamber of Commerce representative, who testified citing a Texas A&M study released in March showing the Peterson-Moran bill would lead to $365 million in additional sales and create 6,000 jobs.
NAWG is preparing comments for the record of this hearing to mirror McReynolds’ March testimony. That statement and more on the Cuba issue are at http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/trade/.
Video of witness statements from the Ways and Means hearing this week can be accessed http://waysandmeans.house.gov/Hearings/hearingDetails.aspx?NewsID=11147.