Bill Aimed at Removing Trade Provisions with Cuba Reintroduced

Brownfield Ag News

By: Mark Dorenkamp

Two U.S. Senators have reintroduced legislation they say would remove trade provisions with Cuba that make American ag exports non-competitive.

Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and John Boozman of Arkansas are lead co-sponsors of the Agricultural Export Expansion Act, which was approved as an amendment to a financial services spending bill by the Senate Appropriations Committee last year.

James Williams, president of Engage Cuba–a national coalition dedicated to lifting the Cuban embargo–says the legislation would benefit U.S. farmers.

“This legislation is not changing a law to say you can now sell to Cuba; that is already legal.  What it does now is just allow American farmers an opportunity to compete.”

Under current law, Cuba must use cash to buy any American ag product.

Williams tells Brownfield the Act paves the way for U.S. farmers and agribusinesses to gain access to private financing.

“This is not taxpayer-backed.  This is not USDA-backed.  This is purely private financing, that if (farmers and ag businesses) are able to get access to, they can offer to Cuba to expand our market-share there.”

He says support for the bill continues to grow in the Senate, but there’s resistance in the House.

“We have a majority of the House representatives in favor of this, but the challenge has been getting Republican leadership to allow it to have a vote.”

A companion bill has been introduced by U.S. Representative Rick Crawford of Arkansas and House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway of Texas.

Williams says he’s been assured House leadership will vote on the Ag Export Expansion Act before the next budget resolution, which occurs at the end of April.