U.S. farm and food organizations, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, and a bipartisan group of Senators and Congressmen launched the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) to advance trade relations with Cuba by ending the 54-year embargo.
Vilsack says, “The historic policy changes announced by the president will take steps to make American farmers and products more price competitive, which will expand choices for Cuban shoppers at the grocery store and create a new customer base for America’s farmers and ranchers.” The coalition will work to advance legislation to end the Cuban embargo and also work with the administration to change the rules governing financing of agricultural exports to Cuba. Under current sanctions, U.S. food and agricultural companies can legally export to Cuba. However, financing and trade restrictions limit the ability of the U.S. industry to competitively serve the market.
The Bush administration changed the original financing rules so that Cuba now has to pay before the product even leaves the United States. Thus, the United States has been losing market share to foreign competitors such as Canada, Brazil and Argentina. Prior to the change in the rules on financing, U.S. rice represented 30% of Cuba’s rice imports. After the change in rules, no U.S. rice sales have been made since 2008.
Congressional members attending the announcement were Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Congressmen Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Sam Farr (D-CA). Members of the USACC include American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Chicken Council, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, North America Meat Institute, U.S. Dairy Export Council, Cargill, Smithfield Foods and CoBank.