U.S. Agriculture Groups Urge Trump to Strengthen U.S. - Cuba Trade Relationship

KTIC

By: Engage Cuba

A national coalition of over 100 U.S. agriculture, trade, commerce-related businesses and associations, urged President-elect Trump to support American agriculture by strengthening the bilateral trade relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. The letter, organized by the Engage Cuba Coalition and USA Rice, also encourages the president-elect to support federal legislation that would allow American farmers and agribusiness to compete in Cuba’s import market.

Cuba imports up to 80% of its food, which amounts to about $2 billion annually, creating a huge potential export market for American farmers that is only 90 miles off our shores. However, U.S. producers are prohibited from offering private credit for the export of agricultural commodities to Cuba, severely restricting the ability of American farmers to compete in Cuba’s growing market.

“Your support in removing outdated financing and trade barriers for exporting agricultural products to our island neighbor could significantly strengthen a U.S. industry which supports 17 million jobs across the country, and can provide the Cuban people with high-quality American-grown food,” the organizations wrote. 

“As a broad cross-section of rural America, we urge you not to take steps to reverse progress made in normalizing relations with Cuba, and also solicit your support for the agricultural business sector to expand trade with Cuba to help American farmers and our associated industries. It’s time to put the 17 million American jobs associated with agriculture ahead of a few hardline politicians in Washington.”

More information on Cuba’s agriculture import market and federal legislation is available here. Full text of the letter is available here and below:

 

January 12, 2017
President-elect Donald J. Trump
725 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10022


Dear President-elect Trump,

Congratulations on your successful campaign.

On behalf of the undersigned U.S. agriculture, trade, commerce-related businesses and associations, we urge you to continue to show your support for American agriculture by advancing the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba and building on the progress that has already been made.

Net farm income is down 46 percent from just three years ago, constituting the largest three-year drop since the start of the Great Depression. This strain on the farm economy is felt across all sectors of the industry and the thousands of small communities that make up rural America. The importance of trade to America’s farmers and ranchers cannot be overstated. The share of U.S. agricultural production exported overseas is 20 percent by volume, with some sectors being much higher. For example, exports account for over 70 percent of U.S. production of tree nuts and cotton, over 60 percent of soybeans, and over 50 percent of rice and wheat. Positive farm income throughout America would not be possible without increasing access to foreign markets, like Cuba.

Mr. President-elect, as an international business icon, you understand how difficult it is to be competitive without the ability to extend credit to your customers. We need the Administration’s support for legislation that would remove these arbitrary and archaic restrictions on extending credit for the purchase of agricultural commodities and equipment.

Your support in removing outdated financing and trade barriers for exporting agricultural products and equipment to our island neighbor could significantly strengthen a U.S. industry which supports 17 million jobs across the country, and can provide the Cuban people with high-quality American-grown food. Cuba imports nearly 80 percent of its food to feed a population of 11 million people and upwards of three million tourists annually. Cuba’s $2 billion agriculture import market could provide tremendous benefits for farmers across the country and help American agribusiness offset recent losses.

In addition to the size of the Cuban market, its proximity to U.S. ports allows for considerably lower shipping costs and shorter delivery times than our foreign competitors. The logistical advantages alone should make Cuba a common-sense partner for two-way commerce. Instead, the federal government overreach has put American farmers at a global disadvantage. U.S. agriculture continues to lose out to our foreign competitors and our net sales have been steadily declining since 2009.

As result of trade restrictions, the U.S. has fallen from its position as the number one supplier of agricultural products from 2003 to 2012, to now the number five supplier after the European Union, Brazil, Argentina, and Vietnam. The U.S. needs to be number one again. Especially given many of Cuba’s imports, including rice, poultry, dairy, soy, wheat, and corn make up more than 70 percent of what they import and they’re all grown right here in the U.S. by hardworking American farmers.

As a broad cross-section of rural America, we urge you not to take steps to reverse progress made in normalizing relations with Cuba, and also solicit your support for the agricultural business sector to expand trade with Cuba to help American farmers and our associated industries. It’s time to put the 17 million American jobs associated with agriculture ahead of a few hardline politicians in Washington.

We look forward to working closely with you and your team, and please let us know if we can provide any assistance moving forward.