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Cuba trade/travel policy shift

In a move that will surely excite the U.S. agriculture community, President Barack Obama has decided to loosen restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba.

Claiming a desire to bring more prosperity and freedom to Cubans, Obama will allow an estimated 1.5 million Americans with family on the island to travel there freely. Unfettered money transfers from Americans to Cuban relatives will also be allowed.

The move to ease decades of trade and travel sanctions with Cuba — which Obama promised to review during his recent campaign — comes just days prior to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. While the decision does not lift the trade embargo on Cuba, it is hoped by many in U.S. agriculture to be a first step that will eventually widen avenues of trade.

“I applaud the President’s decision to ease travel restrictions to Cuba,” said Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry, a longtime supporter of trade with Cuba. ”The last 50 years of U.S. policy toward Cuba have proven that unilateral sanctions are not effective.

“By lifting the travel restrictions, we are beginning to lay the groundwork for long-term diplomacy and increased trade. In this ailing economy, one of the first things we can do to provide some relief for our farmers and generate increased revenue for our country would be to lift the trade barriers between the U.S. and Cuba. The time has come to reevaluate our hard-lined policies of the past and embrace a new direction for Cuban-American relations.”

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