A scheduled House Committee on Foreign Affairs mark-up of legislation to ease trade and travel restrictions against Cuba was cancelled this week as Congress rushed to head home prior to November’s elections.
The bill that was to be considered by the Committee, H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, 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.
The Foreign Affairs Committee is the final committee that needs to consider the bill before it can go to the House floor, with the House Agriculture Committee having approved it in late June and the House Financial Services Committee ceding jurisdiction.
Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) released a statement Tuesday announcing the mark-up’s cancellation. While he reiterated his strong support the legislation, he said Congress’ short work-week and the rush to finish essential votes before leaving would not allow for an open and uninterrupted discussion.
“I am postponing consideration of H.R. 4645 until a time when the Committee will be able to hold the robust and uninterrupted debate this important issue deserves,” he said. “I firmly believe that when we debate and vote on the merits of this legislation, and I intend for it to be soon, the right to travel will be restored to all Americans.”
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 has been a strong advocate for H.R. 4645. 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.