A key U.S. Senate subcommittee approved a proposal by U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan Wednesday to clear the way for American citizens to travel to Cuba to promote the sale of U.S. farm products without facing roadblocks from the federal government. The U.S. Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommitte accepted the proposal, which was co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) and others. No one opposed it.
Dorgan authored legislation enacted into law in 2000 that lifted the 40 year old embargo against U.S. food and medicine sales to Cuba. Since 2001, U.S. farmers have sold $650 million in farm products to Cuba. The Bush Administration, however, has worked systematically to thwart U.S. farm sales to Cuba by delaying or refusing to issue travel licenses to many U.S. citizens who want to go to Cuba to sell farm products.
A number of North Dakotans have been among those caught up in the U.S. government’s effort to block travel to Cuba to promote agricultural sales.
Dorgan’s amendment would allow Americans who want to sell farm products to Cuba to travel there without having to apply to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) for permission. OFAC is the office that has worked to block sales trips to Cuba by delaying or refusing to issue travel licenses.
“American farmers need new markets, and the Cuban market is right at our doorstep,” Dorgan said. “Even with all the roadblocks, Cuba has emerged as our country’s 23rd largest food export market, out of 225 worldwide. This administration’s mantra for family farmers is to ‘rely on the market.’ Well, then that market ought to be open and free and that is not the case as long as they continue to put roadblocks in the way of U.S. farm sales to Cuba.”
The measure will next be considered by the full U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, most likely yet this month.