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Posted May 23, 2005 by publisher in Cuba-US Trade

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In the House and Senate, Cuba policy change advocates have been at work on bills to reduce barriers to agricultural trade.  These bills are an important step toward gauging support for rolling back all restrictions on agricultural trade with Cuba, plus a plethora of additional important advances to facilitate trade and travel (by product sellers). 

In February, the Senator Larry Craig introduced the Agricultural Export Facilitation Act of 2005, S. 328.  The initial list of co-sponsors has grown in the past several months to a list of nearly 30 senators.  Shortly after the Senate bill was introduced, Representative Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced a House version of the bill, H.R. 719.  The co-sponsorship in the House has grown more slowly, but has reached more than 30 representatives.  Please help us by taking action to garner support for these bills (see “Take Action” section below).

The Washington Post wrote of the bills: “In part, the legislation is a response to the administration’s efforts to change the way Cuba pays U.S. farmers for food.”  The administration has declared that Cuba must pay cash in advance of shipment for any food the island buys from U.S. companies, rather than cash in advance of delivery.  Complicated negotiations have not succeeded in securing the administration’s retreat from this position, but the likelihood of the approval of “letters of credit” is on the horizon.  While this is not an adequate solution, it may allow some sales by larger corporations; the obstacle remains for small and medium-sized businesses.

Until late last year, the practice had been for Cuba to pay for agricultural shipments in transit or after they arrived at a Cuban port, but before formal title for the goods exchanged hands and before the good were off-loaded.  The move to change the definition of “cash in advance,” analysts say, would jeopardize millions of dollars a year in food sales.

In the first 11 months of last year, Cuba bought $362.7 million in agricultural products from the United States, according to trade monitors.  Opponents of commerce with Cuba argue that the 2000 TSRA law (the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act), which allowed the initiation of food sales, called for cash in advance, and not credit.  They maintain that cash paid after shipment is “credit.” 

The Agricultural Facilitation Act of 2005 effectively deals with that argument, re-affirming that the original intent of Congress in the TSRA law was to allow food sales to Cubaófor cashóbut not requiring cash in advance of shipment.  Our allies in both congressional Cuba Working Groups are enthusiastically supporting this bill, as are we.  It is a step in a positive direction, though we will continue our vigorous effort to end the full travel ban (our priority).  The Agricultural Facilitation Act gains valuable support from the agricultural community, and it offers us the opportunity to speak with supporters of food sales to Cuba about the benefits of opening up travel, as well.

To complicate matters further, however, another set of bills has been introduced in the Senate and House, with similar aims but much less far-reaching and comprehensive.  We favor support for the more comprehensive bills (Craig-Moran), but you should also know about the lesser alternative.  Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) have introduced S. 634 and H.R. 1339, respectivelyóbills to amend the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA) in order to clarify allowable payment terms for sales (“cash in advance” definition) of agricultural commodities and products to Cuba.  These two alternative bills (Chambliss-Emerson) amend TSRA with respect to agricultural sales to Cuba to define permitted payment of cash-in-advance sales as the payment by the purchaser of an agricultural commodity or product and the receipt of such payment by the seller prior to: (1) transfer of title to the purchaser; and (2) release of control to the purchaser.

However, they do not address broader issues that are covered by the Craig-Moran bills, including:  (1) authorizing, under a general license, travel to Cuba in connection with activities needed for sales and marketing (i.e., participation in product exhibitions); (2) supporting the issuing of U.S. visas for Cuban nationals to come to the United States to conduct activities related to purchasing U.S. agricultural goods; (3) prohibiting the President from restricting direct transfers from a Cuban financial institution to a U.S. financial institution in payment for an authorized agricultural sale; and several other provisions. Because of the narrowness of the Chambliss-Emerson bills, we see these two bills as inadequate; and we support the more comprehensive Craig-Moran bills.

Agricultural Export Facilitation Act:

Current Co-sponsors

House of Representatives: H.R. 719

Rep Moran, Jerry [KS-1]; Rep Allen, Thomas H. [ME-1]; Rep Berry, Marion [AR-1]; Rep Boozman, John [AR-3]; Rep Boswell, Leonard L. [IA-3]; Rep Conyers, John, Jr. [MI-14]; Rep Costello, Jerry F. [IL-12]; Rep Emerson, Jo Ann [MO-8]; Rep Everett, Terry [AL-2]; Rep Farr, Sam [CA-17]; Rep Flake, Jeff [AZ-6]; Rep Gordon, Bart [TN-6]; Rep Green, Mark [WI-8]; Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [AZ-7]; Rep Hinchey, Maurice D. [NY-22]; Rep Johnson, Timothy V. [IL-15]; Rep Kind, Ron [WI-3]; Rep Kuhl, John R. “Randy”, Jr. [NY-29]; Rep LaHood, Ray [IL-18];Rep Moore, Dennis [KS-3]; Rep Otter, C. L. (Butch) [ID-1]; Rep Pastor, Ed [AZ-4]; Rep Peterson, Collin C. [MN-7]; Rep Pickering, Charles W. (Chip) [MS-3]; Rep Price, David E. [NC-4]; Rep Ross, Mike [AR-4]; Rep Shimkus, John [IL-19]; Rep Snyder, Vic [AR-2]; Rep Terry, Lee [NE-2]; Rep Thompson, Bennie G. [MS-2]; Rep Tiberi, Patrick J. [OH-12]

Senate: S-328

Sen Craig, Larry E. [ID]; Sen Baucus, Max [MT]; Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM]; Sen Bond, Christopher S. [MO]; Sen Brownback, Sam [KS]; Sen Cantwell, Maria [WA]; Sen Chafee, Lincoln [RI]; Sen Cochran, Thad [MS]; Sen Collins, Susan M. [ME]; Sen Conrad, Kent [ND]; Sen Crapo, Mike [ID]; Sen Dodd, Christopher J. [CT]; Sen Dorgan, Byron L. [ND]; Sen Enzi, Michael B. [WY]; Sen Hagel, Chuck [NE]; Sen Harkin, Tom [IA]; Sen Hutchison, Kay Bailey [TX]; Sen Jeffords, James M. [VT]; Sen Johnson, Tim [SD]; Sen Landrieu, Mary L. [LA]; Sen Leahy, Patrick J. [VT]; Sen Lincoln, Blanche L. [AR]; Sen Lugar, Richard G. [IN]; Sen Murray, Patty [WA]; Sen Nelson, E. Benjamin [NE]; Sen Pryor, Mark L. [AR]; Sen Roberts, Pat [KS]; Sen Stabenow, Debbie [MI]; Sen Talent, Jim [MO]; Sen Thune, John [SD]

Take ACTION on both the ag and travel bills

*  Call, write, or email your senators and representative to urge them to co-sponsor the Agricultural Export Facilitation Act of 2005, S. 328 or H.R. 719.  To find contact information for your members of Congress, visit [url=http://www.senate.gov]http://www.senate.gov[/url] or [url=http://www.house.gov]http://www.house.gov[/url] .  Another way of contacting their offices is through the congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121.  Ask the operator to connect you to your member’s office.  This sort of action, which only takes a few moments of your time, can have a large effect on the members of Congress.  Please take the time to make this contact.

*  We continue to urge you to ask your senators and representative to co-sponsor the “freedom to travel to Cuba” bills that were introduced right before Cuba Action Day.  The House bill, H.R. 1814, was introduced by Representative Flake (R-AZ) and currently has 63 co-sponsors.  The Senate bill, S. 894, was introduced by Senator Enzi (R-WY) and currently has 19 co-sponsors.  Co-sponsorship of these bills helps us gauge the strength of a vote on Cuba travel and sends a strong message about the bipartisan nature of the effort to end the travel ban.  The House bill got 16 new co-sponsors right after Cuba Action Day, and we need that number to continue to increase.  If you aren’t sure if your representative or senators have co-sponsored, see the co-sponsorship list on the “Thomas” website at: 

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:HR01814:@@@P (House) and

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:SN00894:@@@P (Senate). 

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