House Foreign Affairs Schedules Mark-Up of Pending Cuba Bill

September 24, 2010 Bookmark and Share

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs has scheduled a mark-up of pending legislation related to trade with Cuba for next Wednesday at noon.

The bill under consideration will be H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which was introduced earlier in the year by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).

If signed into law, it will 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.

The Foreign Affairs Committee is the final committee to consider the bill before it can go to a vote of the full House of Representatives. The House Agriculture Committee approved the bill on June 30, and the House Financial Services Committee has ceded jurisdiction over the issue.

For wheat growers, passage of H.R. 4645 would be a milestone in work to remove hurdles that have long hindered trade in what would otherwise be a significant market.

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.

NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates, the industry’s market development organization, have long supported incremental changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba. NAWG leaders will continue to work with coalition partners and state wheat organizations to urge passage of the bill before the end of this session.

Much more about the Cuba issue is available online at www.wheatworld.org/trade.