Senate Taking Steps to Open Cuban Market to US Agribusiness

Official portrait of U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

Official portrait of U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

Prices for essential commodities such as wheat, corn and oil have been heading south for quite some time due to their current global surplus. One way to bring prices up would be to open new markets, which can often be elusive. However, one such new market is hovering just over the horizon: Cuba.

At the moment the US, under the initiative of US President Barak Obama, some decades-old restrictions on trade with Cuba have been, or are in the process of being lifted. Unfortunately, that trade embargo continues to disallow the crucial financing that agribusiness in the US would need to send agricultural products to the communist island just 90 miles south of Florida. Agribusiness is hoping that this status-quo will change.

There is a revisiting now in the US Senate of bi-partisan support for legislation which could help agriculture exporters sell their wares in Cuba. Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, along with 13 co-sponsors are energetically pushing the Senate to pass Heitkamp’s bill. The Agricultural Export Expansion Act of 2015 would lift the present ban on companies and private banks which supply the financing for the export of agricultural products to Cuba.

Further support for agricultural trade with Cuba is coming from US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Vilsack has requested the funding of a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) field office in Cuba as part of the upcoming federal budget which was sent to Congress on February 9, 2016.

All good news for agribusiness in the US and in Cuba.

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