FarmAndRanchGuide.com | Editorial
Our Views: U.S. has worked hard to develop trade with Cuba - let’s move ahead
Like a half-finished building project that has run out of funds, building trade with Cuba remains unfinished. Opportunities exist for both countries to benefit from a trade relationship, but recent actions are thwarting that trade.
Many members of the agricultural community have laid the groundwork for a good trade relationship.
The Ralph Kaehler family of St. Charles, Minn., organized the first sale of Minnesota livestock to Cuba since the U.S. embargo in 1959. The family has made many trips to Cuba to assist in providing appropriate livestock breeds for crossbreed vigor. The friendship of Cuban leader Fidel Castro and the Kaehler boys, Cliff and Seth, has built bridges towards increasing good relations between the two countries.
Roger Johnson, North Dakota Commissioner of Agriculture, has made five visits to Cuba, helping North Dakota companies arrange sales of commodities, including more than $8 million in dry edible peas.
Many other organizations and individuals from the Upper Midwest have traveled to Cuba on fact finding missions and to improve trade relations.
Johnson has stated that starting just in 2001, U.S. exports to Cuba grew to almost $500 million annually, but recent new restrictions have reduced U.S. exports to Cuba in 2005.
Previously, the U.S. Congress authorized cash-only sales of American food items under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act. Now, however, a new U.S. regulation from the Office of Foreign Assets Control requires that U.S. exporters be paid in cash before commodities leave the United States, rather than when the goods arrive in Cuba.
The new procedures create logistical problems, increase costs and are disrupting trade. Johnson said that as a result of the new restrictions, U.S. trade with Cuba has declined by 26 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared with last year.
Three bills now before the U.S. House of Representatives and aimed at opening trade with Cuba have drawn backing from a broad coalition of agricultural, food processing and export concerns.
A letter, addressed to members of Congress including Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) expresses the support of 42 ag businesses for House Resolutions 719, 1339 and 1814.
The farm organizations include the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Pork Producers Council, American Meat Institute, National Association of Wheat Growers, U.S. Wheat Associates, Wheat Export Trade and Export Committee and the National Milk Producers Federation.
Ag organizations have worked together to promote responsible trade with Cuba. We need to continue to work towards opening trade with this southern neighbor, despite their different political beliefs and/or affiliation. We continue to open trade to China without setting similar kinds of rules, regulations and standards.
It’s time to open trade with Cuba and allow both nations to gain from the benefits of trade.