Changes in regulations announced by the Obama administration last week offer improved access to Cuba for some sectors of U.S. agriculture. American Farm Bureau Federation trade specialist Dave Salmonsen says the biggest regulation change lifts travel restrictions on rum and cigars from Cuba.
“One of the changes that got a lot of attention falls in more of the travel-related area–though it does involve some agriculturally related products of course–and that’s a long standing restriction of $100 that was there on the amount of rum and cigars that people can bring back in their personal luggage from Cuba. That limit’s gone now so you can bring back all the rum and cigars you can carry.”
He says the new regulations offer improved trade to Cuba for agriculture inputs, but that does not extend to commodity and food products.
“There have been some changes for financing for agricultural inputs that U.S. companies can sell into Cuba. Previously these kinds of financing were restricted, you couldn’t extend credit. Those restrictions have been lifted. There is no change though to a problem that we face as far as selling agricultural commodities and food products into Cuba, and there’s a lot of restrictions on financing. That’s in the statute, that will require congressional action.”
Also the recent changes eliminated a rule for shipping to Cuba. The rule blocked U.S. ships traveling directly to Cuba from returning to the U.S. for 180 days. Eliminating this rule will offer easier access for agriculture in the future.
“Certainly everybody got around that rule, but it was a restriction. So that should help the efficiency of establishing freight service directly from U.S. ports to Cuban ports.”
Salmonsen says that should be something that will bode well for the future of increasing trade in agricultural products between the U.S. and Cuba.