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Senators introduce legislation to end Cuba embargo

Legislative Watch: Legislation introduced to end U.S.-Cuba legal barriers; Senators oppose rural development cuts; FSA committee nominations opening; hot dog season has begun.

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators have introduced legislation, “Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2016,” to end the Cuba trade embargo. The legislation would eliminate the legal barriers for the United States to conduct business in Cuba.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) says, “For far too long, U.S.-Cuba policy has been defined by the conflicts of the past instead of the realities of today and the possibilities of the future. More than 50 years of isolating an island just 90 miles from our border has not secured our interests and has disadvantaged American business owners and farmers.”

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) says, “… our strategy of isolating Cuba hasn’t been very successful. This bipartisan legislation would lift the travel restriction to Cuba, providing new opportunities for American businesses, farmers and ranchers. But trade is very powerful. It can be more than just the flow of goods, but also the flow of ideas — ideas of freedom and democracy.”

The legislation repeals the current legal restrictions against doing business with Cuba, including the original 1961 authorization for establishing the trade embargo; laws that require the enforcement of the embargo; and limitations on direct shipping between the U.S. and Cuban ports. The Trump administration is expected to announce its policy on Cuba in the near future.

Senators oppose rural development cuts
A group of 29 U.S. Senators sent a letter to President Trump strongly stating their concerns regarding the administration’s proposed budget cuts to USDA’s rural development programs in addition to USDA’s reorganization plan to eliminate the undersecretary for Rural Development position.

In the letter the Senators say, “These reductions would undermine the ability of local communities to support rural home ownership; provide clean drinking and waste water systems; and promote access to critical services such as rural hospitals, police and firefighters.”

Currently there is a backlog of $2.5 billion for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage waste disposal and emergency water assistance. The letter was signed by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and others.

FSA county committee nominations open June 15
The period for nominations for Farm Service Agency county committees begins on June 15. County committees consist of three to 11 members and meet once a month or as needed to make decisions on disaster and conservation programs, emergency programs, commodity price support loan programs, county office employment and other agricultural issues.

Members serve three-year terms. Farmers and ranchers may nominate themselves or others. Organizations, including those representing beginning, women and minority producers, may nominate candidates.

To be eligible to serve on an FSA county committee, a person must participate or cooperate in an agency-administered program, and reside in the local administrative area where the election is being held. Nominations must be postmarked or received at the local FSA office by Aug. 1. Ballots will be mailed to eligible voters starting Nov. 6. Ballots are due back to the local FSA office by Dec. 4.

Hot dog season has begun
Memorial Day weekend started the summer grilling season in which Americans will eat an estimated seven billion hog dogs during this summer according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

A survey by NHDSC found that 72% of Americans do not know the ingredients of a hot dog even though a hot dog’s ingredients are required to be listed on the package. The NHCSC has developed a guide for consumers to find out more about the ingredients that are listed on a hot dog package.

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