Engage Cuba & Kansas Farmers Launch State Council to Lift the Cuban Embargo

~ Kansas becomes the 14th state to join the Engage Cuba Coalition ~

Today, Engage Cuba, a leading coalition of private companies and organizations working to lift the travel and trade embargo on Cuba, joined Kansas Wheat and local leaders to launch the bipartisan Engage Cuba Kansas State Council. The council members, comprised of agriculture and business leaders from across Kansas, will build statewide support for Congressional action to end the travel and trade ban on Cuba.

The council seeks to lift the travel and trade ban in order to allow Kansas farmers to regain lost market share in Cuba and support the island's growing private sector. In March, Engage Cuba released a report highlighting the export expansion opportunities for Kansas farmers if the U.S. changed its policy towards Cuba. 

“As a top U.S. exporter of agriculture goods and the largest wheat producer in the country, opening up trade with Cuba would provide tremendous opportunities for producers of Kansas wheat, livestock, and other agricultural commodities, and support Cuba's growing private sector,” said President of Engage Cuba, James Williams. "We’re very pleased to work with all of our Engage Cuba Kansas State Council members to lift the Cuba travel and trade ban that is costing Kansas jobs and preventing economic development for the Cuban people. It's time to end 55 years of failed, isolationist policies toward Cuba."

“Kansas agriculture drives our economy and creates jobs across the entire state. Cuba has the potential to be a substantial market just 90 miles off our shore, but until Congress lifts the embargo, Kansas farmers and other small businesses will continue to miss out on export opportunities. The current low commodity prices make it clear that Kansas producers shouldn’t be limited from exporting to Cuba,” said U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS). 

On June 16th, Sen. Moran, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, supported an amendment to allow American farmers to extend private financing for the export of agricultural commodities to Cuba in a must-pass FY 2017 appropriations bill. Both Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts (both R-KS) are co-sponsors of the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, which would allow Americans to travel to Cuba freely for tourist purposes. 

As Cuba’s markets continue to grow given the rise of tourism and the increasing purchasing power of 11 million Cubans, demand for high-quality U.S. agriculture will continue to rise.  Specifically, Cuba imports large quantities of wheat, soybeans, feed grain, and corn, which are among Kansas’ top agricultural exports.  

“With current decade low commodity prices and pressures on the U.S. ag economy, we need to be fostering trade partners and relationships, not prohibiting them,” said Jay Armstrong, Past Chairman of the Kansas Wheat Commission. “Despite many difficulties associated with the U.S. trading with Cuba, it is apparent that we have a major transportation and logistical advantage in shipping, given Cuba's proximity to the United States. A level playing field with Canada and Europe is critical for U.S. wheat farmers to fully realize their export potential to Cuba. Kansas wheat farmers support ending the embargo entirely.”

Kansas' capacity for trade with Cuba extends well beyond agriculture. The Cuban government has expressed interest in building its renewable energy sector and has set a goal of generating 24 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, including building 13 new wind facilities. The energy sector is Kansas’ third-largest industry, and it ranks second in the U.S. for wind energy potential. Kansas is therefore uniquely positioned to be an international leader in export energy infrastructure and renewable technology to Cuba.

Engage Cuba has launched state councils in 13 additional states, including Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Idaho, Colorado, and New Mexico. Later today, Engage Cuba will launch its 15th state council in Missouri. More information on Engage Cuba State Councils is available here