NAWG applauded the House Agriculture Committee’s passage on Wednesday of a bill that would significantly ease agricultural trade and travel restrictions with Cuba.
H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, was introduced earlier in the year by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Congressman Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). If signed into law, it would clarify how U.S. farmers and agricultural businesses conduct sales to Cuba and remove long-standing travel restrictions, which together have significantly constrained wheat growers’ market share there.
Cuba is the largest importer of wheat and wheat products in the Caribbean, with 11.4 million mouths to feed and no domestic wheat production. Still, because of U.S.-mandated payment and travel restrictions, American wheat made up less than 25 percent of Cuban wheat imports last year, versus more than 80 percent in other Caribbean nations.
For wheat growers, the House Agriculture Committee’s approval of H.R. 4645 is another successful step toward remedying the challenges that have long hindered trade in what would otherwise be a logical market.
“We are long overdue to make common-sense changes to our policy concerning Cuba, which has done nothing but hamstring agriculture’s competitiveness in this neighboring market and hurt our agricultural economy,” said NAWG President Jerry McReynolds, a Kansas wheat producer who also testified to his experiences at a House Agriculture hearing held earlier this year.
“Especially at this time of high wheat stocks and low harvest prices in states like mine, this is a major competitiveness issue that deserves a solution. We thank our elected representatives for standing by us and passing this legislation.”
NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates, the industry’s market development organization, have long supported incremental changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba, and NAWG leaders have worked extensively to gather support for H.R. 4645, which now awaits consideration by the full House of Representatives. Companion legislation has also been introduced for consideration in the Senate.
Melissa George Kessler, NAWG, 202-547-7800