US Agribusiness Sees Potential in Cuba

Official photo of United States Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

Official photo of United States Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

With the lifting of the US embargo on trade with Cuba US agribusiness is anticipating some benefits to their own economic sector. The American Farm Bureau and other farm groups are pushing for increased trade in agricultural goods when the embargo is nullified.

Senator Chuck Grassley, Iowa senator, is refraining from participating in the flurry of excitement the lifting of the trade embargo has been generating. Even if the end of the embargo means more agricultural products will be sold to Cuba, Grassley is still not moved to support the historic event. He believes that when it comes to the “give and take” of negotiations of the new trade arrangement, Cuba is going to get the better end of the deal.

The Senator points out that even with the embargo still in place farm sales to Cuba has been improving.

“There’s already a provisions that have even been liberalized beyond what they’ve been through maybe ten years for agricultural foods to go there along with medicine, pharmaceuticals, medicinal things. So I don’t know whether we have to be so concerned just for agriculture,” said Grassley.

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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