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New bill bolsters hope for U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, yesterday introduced legislation (H.R. 833) to define "payment of cash in advance" for U.S.-Cuba agricultural sales as receipt of payment by the seller prior to the transfer of the product's title and the release of control of the product to the purchaser.

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, yesterday introduced legislation (H.R. 833) to define "payment of cash in advance" for U.S.-Cuba agricultural sales as receipt of payment by the seller prior to the transfer of the product's title and the release of control of the product to the purchaser.  Since 2005, federal regulations enforced by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) require advance payment in cash only, before U.S. farm goods leave a U.S. port for Cuba.

H.R. 833 would also prohibit the president from restricting direct transfers from a Cuban financial institution to U.S. financial institution to pay for a product authorized for sale under U.S. law.  Federal law allows the sale of U.S. farm goods to Cuba, but requires payment in cash only.

The USA Rice Federation has led rice industry efforts to open and expand agricultural trade with Cuba and strongly supports congressional efforts to remove statutory and regulatory restrictions on direct trade with the island nation.  USA Rice is working to get rice state co-sponsors of H.R. 833.

Cuba is a potential 400,000 to 600,000 metric ton (MT) rice market for the United States.  U.S. rice sales to Cuba peaked in 2004, at approximately 176,000 MT.  After OFAC imposed restrictive regulations on U.S.-Cuba agricultural transactions in 2005, U.S. rice sales declined, with none made since in 2009.

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