The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on the potential to increase U.S. ag and food sales to Cuba by lifting the trade embargo on Tuesday. According to The Hagstrom Report – Senate Ag Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow says ag sales to Cuba are a way to rebuild trust between the U.S. and Cuba. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy says there will not be an immediate commercial windfall for American agriculture – as Cuba has used the embargo for its own purposes – and repealing it would allow the development of a more efficient economic relationship.
The American Soybean Association applauds the committee for holding such an important hearing. ASA First Vice President Richard Wilkins says normalized and barrier-free trade with Cuba would have a positive impact on soybean exports in the form of increased demand for pork, poultry, dairy and eggs – as well as vegetable oil for cooking. Wilkins says the soybean industry is losing out on valuable opportunities to market U.S. food and ag products in Cuba. In the last year – Cuba imported about a half-million tons of soybeans and soybean products – he says. A little less than half came from the U.S. – and Wilkins says soybeans that have gone to Cuba in the past year have been exported with difficulty due to red tape involved with the 1960s embargo. Lifting this barrier would allow U.S. soybean producers to grow the Cuban export market – Wilkins says – and better compete with foreign suppliers.