Agriculture leaders strongly expressed their desire to restore trade with Cuba during an event at the Commodity Classic in New Orleans.
The event was hosted by the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC), which seeks to advance trade relations between the U.S and Cuba by re-establishing Cuba as a market for U.S. food and agriculture exports.
“Our members are extremely interested in Cuba,” said Charlie O’Brien, AEM senior vice president. “We feel that our products can improve agricultural production and conditions for the people of Cuba through technology like precision agriculture. We’re interested in what is down the line.”
“Farmers are interested in building new areas for demand and Cuba is a great example,” said Tom Sleight, president and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council. “Trade creates a more open relationship. It’s time for us to address this issue because our competition is heating up.”
“We not only need to lower trade barriers, but we have to have information transfer plans in front of us. We need to prepare for that moment,” said Wayne Cleveland, executive director of the Texas Grain Sorghum Producers Association.
Need to Lift Barriers
USACC members also spoke about the need to lift barriers with Cuba that will allow more U.S. commodities and other agricultural products to be imported by Cuba.
American Soybean Association Director Joel Schreurs said, “We are committed to removing barriers with Cuba. Congress has to act to reduce the barriers that allow access to credit. Being less than 100 miles off our coast, Cuba should be a fantastic opportunity for us.”
“When someone talks about export opportunities, our ears perk up. We don’t want to let them pass us by,” said Brett Blankenship, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers. “Cuba is the biggest market in the Caribbean for wheat and it’s the closest. The administration has done what they can. The ball is in Congress. That’s why we are proud to be part of this collation to end the embargo. We all need to work together to ease trade restrictions.”
Helpful to U.S. Producers
USACC co-chair Paul Johnson stated, “Our message to the administration and Congress is simple – let us compete. This not only helps U.S. ag producers but also the Cuban people.”
The USACC believes that normalizing trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba will provide the U.S. farm and business community with new market access opportunities, drive enhanced growth in both countries and allow U.S. farmers, ranchers and food companies to efficiently address Cuban citizen’s food security needs.
Under current sanctions, U.S. food and agriculture companies can legally export to Cuba, but financing and trade restrictions limit their ability to serve the market competitively. The USACC ultimately seeks to end the embargo and allow for open trade and investment.