U.S. Senators introduced a new bill with bipartisan support
By Diego Flammini
U.S. Senators have introduced a new bill designed to secure market access in Cuba for American farmers.
Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) together introduced the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act.
If passed, this bill would eliminate barriers preventing American industries like agriculture from doing business in Cuba.
Sens. Klobuchar and Leahy, along with former Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) introduced a similar piece of legislation in 2019.
American farm products have been entering Cuba since President Clinton signed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000.
Since December 2001, the U.S. has exported almost $6.3 billion worth of farm goods to Cuba, says Economic Eye on Cuba, a publication of the U.S. Trade and Economic Council.
But because of the trade embargo the U.S. has had in place with Cuba since the 1960s, American farmers are at a disadvantage compared to other countries.
“The unilateral trade embargo on Cuba blocks our own farmers, ranchers and manufacturers from selling into a market only 90 miles from our shoreline, while foreign competitors such as China benefit at our expense,” Sen. Moran said in a statement. “This legislation will expand market opportunities for U.S. producers by allowing them to compete on a level playing field with other countries. It is time to amend our own laws to give U.S. producers fair access to market to consumers in Cuba.”
Farm groups support normalizing trade with Cuba.
Agriculture is a bipartisan issue and both parties should be working together to secure more markets for farmers, said Paul Johnson, chair of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC).
“All markets are important to farmers and Cuba is a market with 11 million people, geographically it’s close to the U.S. and we think we can do better than what we’ve done before,” he told Farms.com.
The USACC is a 24-member organization whose goal it is to improve ag trade with Cuba.
Its members include the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association and National Association of Wheat Growers.
In addition to increased exports, the U.S. can also provide some of its ag expertise to Cuban farmers, Johnson said.
“We can work with Cuban farmers to improve local production and fill in gaps where they need to export products,” he said. “The policies that are in place now are outdated, it’s time for a change and agriculture can help be part of that positive change.”