Today, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) released the following statement regarding his support for modifying U.S.-Cuba trade policy:
“I have long fought to change the unilateral U.S. sanctions and regulations that restrict the ability of our farmers and ranchers to sell their products to Cuba.
“Cuba is only 90 miles from our border, making it a natural market for U.S. agricultural commodities, including Kansas wheat. Cuba imports approximately 80 percent of the food they consume. Wheat is Cuba’s largest food commodity import and second-largest import overall, only behind oil. While the United States has unilaterally erected trade barriers that harm our own farmers, other countries are more than happy to fill this market. For example, this year Cuba has purchased $150 million worth of wheat from the European Union alone.
“It simply does not make sense to continue policies and regulations blocking U.S. farmers from this market only for it to be filled by our competitors. Industry experts believe that U.S. wheat could grow to 80-90 percent of the market share in Cuba if the trade restrictions are eased, similar to our market share in other Caribbean nations. Considering it costs an average of $20-25 per ton to ship grain from Europe to Cuba versus about $6-7 per ton from the United States, it makes economic sense for U.S. commodities to make up the lion’s share of the Cuban market.
“Wheat is especially important to me since Kansas leads the nation in wheat milling and production. However, many other U.S. and Kansas commodities would benefit from opening the Cuban market. A 2010 Texas A&M study estimates that easing restrictions and lifting the travel ban could result in $365 million in additional sales of U.S. agricultural commodities, boost the U.S. economy by $1.1 billion, and create 6000 new jobs.
“Beyond providing a new market for U.S. farmers, easing restrictions on trade and travel with Cuba may bring about reforms in the repressive Cuban government – reforms that more than 50 years of the current policy have not achieved. Current U.S. policy only serves to limit American’s freedom to trade and travel with the island nation while contributing to the ongoing misery of the Cuban people. A change in our nation's approach that can open Cuba up economically and politically through the exchange of commodities and ideas is necessary.
“I have often said, in Kansas we will try anything once – sometimes twice or even three times. However, if we have been trying something for over five decades and it has yet to work, it is time to change direction. It is time to change our Cuba policies. It is time for U.S. farmers and ranchers to truly have market access to Cuba’s 11 million consumers.”
Sen. Moran has long fought for commonsense changes to U.S. trade policy with Cuba – which must import nearly 85 percent of its food – in order to open up more markets for American farmers. On July 20, 2000, an amendment (H.Amdt.1031 to H.R.4871) offered by then Rep. Moran prohibiting funds being used to enforce sanctions for food, medicine and agriculture products in a sale to Cuba passed the House of Representatives (301-116) The adoption of this amendment opened another needed market to farmers throughout the country. Unfortunately, changes in regulations by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 2005 once again severely restricted this market.
In February 2010, then-Congressman Moran introduced – and the House Agriculture Committee passed – H.R. 4645, legislation to expand agricultural trade with Cuba
In Sept. 2011, Sen. Moran’s legislation to remove a trade barrier with Cuba by allowing direct cash payments from Cuban buyers to U.S. financial institutions during the 2012 fiscal year (FY), was adopted by the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations as an amendment to the FY2012 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill. By allowing direct cash payments, Sen. Moran’s amendment will fuel economic growth and enable agricultural producers to compete on a level playing field.
Nearly 150 U.S. organizations have voiced their strong support for doing so, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Wheat Growers and the National Farmers Union.