House lawmakers introduced a bill to repeal restrictions on export financing and expand producer access to USDA foreign marketing programs when exporting ag products to Cuba this week.
Led by Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., and supported by Reps. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Ted Poe, R-Texas, H.R. 3687, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act also enables limited American investment in Cuban agribusinesses, as long as U.S. regulators certify the entity is privately-owned and not controlled by the Government of Cuba, or its agents.
Under current law, U.S. producers are permitted to export agricultural commodities to Cuba but restrictions on financing and marketing limit competitiveness in the Cuban market and limit export potential, the Representatives say.
"While the Administration has called on Congress to repeal the embargo entirely, I think the correct approach is to make cautious and incremental changes to current Cuba policies in ways that benefit the United States," Crawford said in a statement regarding the bill.
"The Cuba Agricultural Exports Act would allow our producers to compete on a level playing field in the Cuban market, a significant opportunity for American farmers and ranchers."
Crawford said it is estimated that Cuba imports around 80% of its food supply – the value of global exports moving to $1.9 billion over the last decade – and the U.S. has an export advantage given its proximity to Cuba.
"I believe that agriculture trading partnerships with Cuba will help build a foundation of goodwill and cooperation that will open the door to long-sought reforms in the same the way that American influence has brought reform to other communist states," Crawford said.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Conaway added that the ag industry is generally interested in increasing exports to Cuba because of the growth potential in ag exports.
"I appreciate Rick Crawford's leadership on this bill – especially his efforts at reaching consensus with various stakeholders on this important issue," Conaway said.
The Cuba market is valued at $1 billion per year, Crawford added, noting that the bill is supported by the U.S. Agriculture Cuba Coalition.