Last week a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act and a number of ag groups immediately applauded the effort. The bill would end the United States’ trade embargo with Cuba. Jasper County, Indiana farmer Kendall Culp, a board member of the American Soybean Association, told HAT an end to the embargo is a long time coming.
“I think it’s real positive for American agriculture when we’ve got a country 90 miles away and we’ve been shut out of that for many decades now. It just gives our farmers another market, another opportunity to sell some of our commodities that we grow here in the United States. Hopefully the way the legislation reads when it passes they will enjoy the same trading rights and become a trading partner just like most of the other countries are that we deal with.”
Culp said through their World Soy Foundation ASA has learned a lot in working with countries that don’t enjoy the same standard of living we do in the U.S.
“When we work with those countries, eventually when their economies grow and improve their standard of living raises and there is more importance on a balanced diet with more protein, which either means they’re going to need more of our raw commodities or they’re going to need more meat, and that’s good for soybean growers. We’re looking for markets all over the world and when you find one that’s this close to your country it’s pretty exciting. It’s something the American Soybean Association has worked for many, many years, to try to normalize trade with Cuba, and it looks like we’ve got a pretty good shot of making that happen now.”
The current embargo, allows United States exports of agricultural products by use of third-party banking institutions, which adds to the expense and makes trade more burdensome. The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act repeals the current legal restrictions against doing business with Cuba, including the original 1961 authorization for establishing the trade embargo. It does not repeal human rights provisions or provisions relating to property claims against the Cuban government.
The legislation was introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and backed by Senators Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
“Soybean farmers are, perhaps more than our counterparts in any other commodity, acutely aware of the benefits of growing our international trade relationships,” said ASA President and Brownfield, Texas, farmer Wade Cowan. “We are the nation’s leader in agricultural trade not because of one large relationship with a major purchaser, but because of our work in emerging economies like Cuba’s, which is why we’re so excited to support, as we long have, an end to the embargo. We applaud Sen. Klobuchar and all the bill’s co-sponsors for their bold approach in introducing this bill, and we fully encourage its passage.”
The National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S.Wheat Associates issued a statement saying they “are pleased to see bipartisan Congressional progress being made, and look toward a speedy and permanent end to the Cuban trade embargo. NAWG and USW are members of the U.S. Agricultural Coalition for Cuba, which also endorsed the legislation.
“It is refreshing to see our nation’s lawmakers reaching across the aisle to produce real and meaningful change. Increased trade with Cuba has great potential for U.S. wheat growers,” commented NAWG president Paul Penner.
Cuba’s 11 million people consume close to one million metric tons of wheat each year. It is the largest wheat market in the Caribbean, but it currently purchases almost all of that wheat from the European Union and Canada. Cuba could import at least 500,000 metric tons of wheat from the United States each year but has not purchased U.S. wheat since 2011. Under the current embargo, the United States can export agricultural products to Cuba through the use of third-party banking institutions, which makes facilitating trade burdensome and often more expensive.
“The farmer directors of NAWG and USW recently renewed a call to end the Cuban trade embargo,” said USW President Alan Tracy. “We support the bipartisan effort in the Senate that moves us one step closer to seeing U.S. wheat flowing to our Cuban neighbors again.”