Topeka Moves to relax the United States’ trade approach to Cuba are coming from diverse political corners, including Kansas farmers.
U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., recently introduced legislation aimed at removing barriers to sales of U.S. agricultural products to Cuba.
“Our unreliable and uncertain trade policies are sending the signal to Cuba that it is easier to purchase its products elsewhere,” Moran said. “We are only hurting ourselves.”
Many Kansas farmers support the effort. “Knocking down trade barriers between the U.S. and Cuba will help feed hungry people in Cuba and help the bottom lines of many struggling U.S. farm families,” said Steve Baccus, a grain farmer from Ottawa County and president of the Kansas Farm Bureau.
The proposal comes at a time when President Barack Obama has already taken steps to remove limits on how often Cuban-Americans can visit relatives on the island and how much money they can send to family members.
More changes may be coming when the U.S. participates in the Summit of the Americas to be held April 17-19 in Trinidad and Tobago.
And this week, members of the Congressional Black Caucus returned from meetings in Havana with Cuban President Raul Castro and his brother Fidel Castro, the former ruler.
The congressional members said the Castro brothers are eager to build better relations with the United States.
Since 1962, the United States has had an economic embargo on Cuba, a communist country of 12 million people 90 miles south of Key West, Fla.
In the area of trade, Moran, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said he would like to see a change in a policy that requires cash payment in advance from Cuba for U.S. agricultural exports. His legislation would clarify that a seller of a product receives payment at the time the Cuban purchaser takes physical possession of the product, which is how most trading is routinely conducted.
Even with the restrictions, in 2007 the United States exported approximately $600 million worth of agricultural products to Cuba, according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. That included $109 million in corn, $70 million in wheat, and $41 million in soybeans, all major Kansas crops, according to the council’s statistics.
“With the current economy placing new hardships on our producers, this is an opportune time to encourage the United States to change its trade policies toward Cuba,” Moran said.