The issue of the Cuban embargo and agricultural trade to Cuba is beginning to gain congressional attention. Indications are that Congressmen Jerry Moran (R-KS), Collin Peterson (D-MN), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chairwoman of the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee, and Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) will be advocating for legislation to expand agricultural trade to Cuba. According to reports, the bill would: 1) eliminate the need to go through banks in other countries to conduct agricultural trades; 2) require agricultural exports to Cuba to meet the same payment requirements as exports to other countries by requiring payment when the title of the shipment changes hands; and 3) allow U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba, reducing the bureaucratic red tape required for agricultural association, agribusinesses, and others to make agricultural sales. Former President Bill Clinton signed legislation in 2000 to allow some agricultural and medical shipments to Cuba. Total exports have grown from $7 million in 2000 to $711.5 million in 2008. Agricultural exports to Cuba in 2008 were: corn, 27%; meat, poultry and fish, 21.5%; wheat, 19%; soybeans, 9.4%; animal feed, 8.4%; and other agricultural goods, 11.2%. Agriculture has been one of the strongest proponents to end the Cuban embargo.
Food Insecurity Highest Since 1995 — According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) latest report on Household Food Security, 14.6% of the American public (17 million households) in 2008 were food insecure and families had difficulty putting enough food on the table at times during the year. This represents an 11.1% increase compared to 2007. The 2008 results represent the highest level of food insecurity since the surveys were established in 1995.
Emergency Influenza Containment Act — Congressman George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, has introduced H.R. 3991, the “Emergency Influenza Containment Act.” The legislation would guarantee up to five paid sick days for workers sent home or directed to stay home by an employer for a contagious illness. The bill sponsors focus on the novel H1N1 influenza virus as the reason for the bill, although this legislation would cover all contagious illnesses.
December – a Busy Month for Congress — Health care will be the focus of the Senate for the remainder of the year. The Senate bill under consideration would expand Medicaid coverage, create state-run insurance exchanges, establish a public health care option to compete with private insurers, and cost an estimated $848 billion over 10 years. Health care is the priority for the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for the rest of year. Congress will be working on appropriation bills that have not been completed. And, there are a number of tax provisions, including the biodiesel tax credit, that expire at the end of the year that Congress plans to consider.
P. Scott Shearer