St. Joseph News Press
The farm-to-market roads of the past, those routes for moving agricultural products, got longer and more geopolitically complicated with the years.
But Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran wants to remove obstacles for speeding his home state’s farm goods to a market close to the United States.
Moran, a Republican, has introduced legislation to lift a trade embargo with Cuba and create a new market for Kansas farmers and ranchers and those in other states.
A Cold War-era economic embargo cut off Cuba from American trade. The Obama administration took actions to normalize relations with the nation 90 miles away from Florida, but the 55-year-old ban on trade remains largely in place.
The Moran-backed Cuba Trade Act would lift the restrictions.
“The Cuban embargo was well-intentioned at the time it was enacted,” Moran said on the Senate floor when talking about his bill. “Today, however, it only serves to hurt our own national interests by restricting Americans’ freedoms and to conduct business with that country.”
Moran has long pursued Cuba as a trade destination for Kansas goods, having served in 2010, during his time in the U.S. House and on its Agriculture Committee, as the principal co-sponsor of the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which never got a floor vote.
The senator framed the introduction of this bill in economic terms. Last year, he pointed out, Kansas had historic yields in wheat, corn and other grains, but its producers suffered from low commodity prices.
More markets translate to increased prices for American farmers, Moran said.
“We need to be able to indicate to our farmers that hope is in the works in global markets,” the Kansan said. “That is particularly true for an agricultural state like ours where, again, 95 percent of the consumers live some place outside the United States.”
Kansas has begun a state council as part of a national coalition called Engage Cuba, through which private companies and organizations work to end the trade embargo placed on that nation.
The president of Engage Cuba, James Williams, praised Moran’s legislation.
“As a top U.S. exporter of agriculture goods and the largest wheat producer in the country, opening up trade with Cuba would allow Kansas agribusiness, which is an economic driver and job creator across the state, to significantly increase exports to a $2 billion neighboring market,” he said.
Missouri also has started a state council with Engage Cuba, hoping to increase export possibilities for farm products, including rice, a crop grown in the southern part of the state.
According to the Washington-based group, Cuba imports more than $250 million in soybean products, which happens to be Missouri’s top agricultural export.