Today, President of Engage Cuba, James Williams applauded the U.S. Senate for approving Secretary to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Sonny Perdue. USDA Secretary Perdue has long been a champion of expanding agricultural trade with Cuba, having expressed his support during in his Senate confirmation hearing as well as during his time as Governor of Georgia following a trade delegation trip to Cuba.
"Having traveled to Cuba as Governor of Georgia, Secretary Perdue knows first-hand the significant opportunities for U.S. farmers in emerging markets there," said President of Engage Cuba, James Williams. "Commodity prices are dropping. Farmers across the country are struggling. At the same time, our island neighbor is importing $2 billion of ag products a year from our foreign competitors. We're optimistic that President Trump has selected, and the Senate has confirmed, a Secretary that will fight to remove trade restrictions on exporting food to Cuba that would not only help U.S. farmers, but also help boost Cuba's economy and agriculture production capacity."
While American producers are able to sell their products to our island neighbor, they are unable to offer private financing for the sale of agricultural commodities to Cuba. As a result, American farmers have consistently lost market share in Cuba's market every year since 2009. While removing these restrictions requires an act of Congress, Mr. Perdue announced his support for legislative efforts to make it easier to sell to Cuba in his Senate confirmation hearing. A full transcript of then Sec.-designate's remarks on Cuba is available here.
The Agricultural Export Expansion Act would remove restrictions on offering credit for the export of agricultural commodities to Cuba. That bill was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota and John Boozman from Arkansas. A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Crawford (R-AR) on Jan. 13, 2017.
On, Jan. 12, a national coalition of over 100 U.S. agriculture, trade, commerce-related businesses and associations, urged then 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 and USA Rice, also encourages the president to support the Agricultural Exports Expansion Act.