In testimony before the House Agriculture Committee, the President of the American Farm Bureau Federation called on Congressional members to support the Travel Reform and Export Enhancement Act, or H.R. 4645. Bob Stallman said this act would lift some key U.S. imposed restrictions on trade with Cuba. The bill would reverse the restrictions on payment of cash in advance, eliminate the third country bank requirement and lift the ban on travel.
Because of the great market potential, passage of the legislation would make agriculture a strong player in the Cuban market and increase U.S. agricultural exports. "We have seen the promise the market holds," Stallman said. "Unfortunately, because of restrictions on U.S exports to Cuba, U.S. farmers have not been able to benefit from the full potential of the market."
Since being allowed to trade with Cuba in 2000, on average the United States has exported roughly $320 million in agricultural products per year, reaching a high of almost $700 million in 2008. Stallman pointed out that the United States is not viewed by Cuba as a reliable supplier. Our competitors do not have the same obstacles in trading with Cuba we face. Stallman said that eliminating these restrictions will decrease the advantages the United States has given our competitors and restore the advantage to U.S. farmers.
Also, testifying before the House Committee on Agriculture were representatives of the National Farmers Union and American Soybean Association. Leaders from both organizations voiced support for the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act.
NFU President Roger Johnson testified, saying that even though U.S. firms offer reliable trading partners, quality products and competitive prices, current U.S. policy hampers their ability to supply the Cuban market. "I can speak from firsthand experience on the importance of ending the Cuban embargo and establishing trade relations with Cuba in an effort to better the U.S. agriculture market," Johnson said.
ASA Board member Scott Fritz said that we can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch our competitors continue to supply a market where we have a natural advantage. "If the travel ban is eliminated, the number of U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba annually would increase to between 500,000 and 1 million," Fritz said. "This growth in travel would bring in more hard currency, enabling the Cuban state-trading agency to buy more U.S. agricultural products."