Farm organizations join Cuba coalition in call for level trade playing field

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Farm Forum

WASHINGTON – The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), National Farmers Union (NFU) and American Soybean Association (ASA) recently joined U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and fellow farm and food organizations seeking to end the United States’ embargo against Cuba and advance trade relations between the two nations.

The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba is composed of more than 30 U.S. agricultural and food organizations committed to building a deeper U.S.-Cuba relationship.

Although agricultural exports to Cuba are legal, the financing and trade restrictions have hampered the ability of American farmers to compete with other countries, such as Argentina and Brazil, which do not face the same restrictions. U.S. corn exports to Cuba have decreased from nearly 800,000 metric tons in 2008 to 200,000 tons in 2013.

NCGA President Chip Bowling issued the following statement:

“Cuba is not a level playing field for American farmers. It’s time we have a chance to better compete for Cuba’s business. NCGA has long supported normalized trade relations with Cuba, as part of our efforts to expand markets for U.S. corn and feed the world. We are proud to join this coalition. We will work closely with our fellow coalition members to advance a trade relationship with Cuba that is efficient, globally competitive, and benefits both nations.”

ASA President Wade Cowan noted the potential of the opening of the Cuban market for American soy growers in the following statement:

“Like any new and developing market, Cuba represents a great opportunity for soybean farmers in the U.S.,” said Cowan. “We are proud to be part of the USACC because expanding our relationships with markets like Cuba generates concrete value for American farmers by increasing demand not only for soybeans, but also for the livestock and meat products that make up our largest customer base. While we’ve been able to sell beans in Cuba for years now, we’re a long way from being completely open for business in that country. As part of the USACC, we’ll work with our fellow organizations at all points in the supply chain to ensure that the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba is one that benefits both our countries.”

NFU President Roger Johnson noted that in his prior role as North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner, he made eight trade missions to Cuba selling agricultural products such as wheat, dried peas, lentils, garbanzo beans and flour. He also described NFU’s hard work over the past five years to push for normalization of relations with Cuba, sending at least 20 letters to government officials and legislators addressing normalized travel and trade between both nations, and emphasizing that the time has come to end the embargo.

“Normalizing trade between the U.S. and Cuba has been a major push for NFU for many years,” said Johnson. “Lifting the failed trade embargo and easing financial regulations are steps that need to be taken in order to provide new markets for U.S. agriculture products. NFU is excited to be able to work with the USACC and promote normalized U.S.-Cuban relations on behalf of American family farmers.”

More information on the coalition, including a list of charter members, can be found at www.usagcoalition.com.