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Agricultural News

Bill to Open Cuba for Ag Exports- AND Tourists- Passes the House Ag Committee on Party Line Vote

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 4:12:39 CDT

Bill to Open Cuba for Ag Exports- AND Tourists- Passes the House Ag Committee on Party Line Vote The latest efforts to open up access to Cuba for US farm exports was in the spotlight on Wednesday afternoon in the House Ag Committee. The bill with 62 co-sponsors had rough going before the Democrats were able to stay together and move this measure out of the Committee. After a handful amendments were ruled out of order and a motion to report the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act out of committee without a recommendation - committee members finally voted 25 to 20 to report the bill with a favorable recommendation. The measure provides for expanded agricultural trade with Cuba and allows Americans to travel more freely to the island. Calling it the right policy at the right time - Committee Chair Collin Peterson said the committee took a courageous vote to end the short-sighted and failed policy that limits American agriculture's access to the Cuban market.

Just hours prior to the Committee vote - the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the bill an important first step toward a policy more likely to bring change to Cuba and commercial benefits to the United States. In a letter to all Members of the U.S. Congress - the U.S. Chamber said it would consider giving a key vote designation to the legislation should it reach the House floor.

But the motion to report without a recommendation - from Virginia's Bob Goodlatte - would have killed the bill on the House floor according to Chairman Peterson. A 24 to 21 vote against tabling that motion led Peterson to call for a short recess. When he returned - the vote on Goodlatte's motion failed 42 to 3.

We have an audio overview of the Committee's work Wednesday on this measure- click on the Listen Bar below for that audio report.

There are a lot of groups that have praised the House Ag Committee's action on Cuba. Here's a sampling of what was being said on Wednesday afternoon:

The House Agriculture Committee's approval today of the Cuba trade bill will help increase agriculture exports to that island nation and help make U.S. agricultural goods the products of choice in the Cuban marketplace, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

"This vote today takes us one step closer to placing American-grown food on the tables of the Cuban people," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "We are hopeful the House will expedite consideration of this bill so we can take advantage of our competitive position in the Cuban market."

Earlier this week, Stallman expressed AFBF's strong support for the measure, H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, sponsored by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). The bill eliminates many restrictions on exports of U.S. agricultural commodities to Cuba, as well as modifies other U.S. policies that hinder U.S. exports to Cuba.


The National Farmers Union is pleased the House Ag Committee passed the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act with no amendments. The measure contains a provision to eliminate the requirement that payments to U.S. ag sellers must go through banks in other countries - allowing direct financial transactions for ag sales to Cuba. NFU President Roger Johnson says it's vital to take advantage of all opportunities that will open markets for producers to sell their products in the current economic environment - and says this legislation does just that.

Just under 50 years ago - NFU notes 60-percent of Cuba's food imports came from the U.S. Lifting the ban on agricultural goods - the International Trade Commission predicts - would increase U.S. exports to Cuba to between 924-million and 1.2-billion dollars. A recent ITC report shows about 290-million in agricultural cash sales to Cuba.


The National Corn Growers Association is pleased with the passage of H.R. 4645, The Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, out of the House Agriculture Committee this afternoon with a favorable recommendation of adoption by the full House of Representatives. The bill passed the Agriculture Committee today by a vote of 25-20.

"NCGA appreciates the work of the House Agriculture Committee today on the passage of this important piece of legislation," NCGA President Darrin Ihnen said. "Increasing one-way trade with Cuba and lifting the travel ban will provide additional markets for corn products and co-products, which will in turn help the American farmer. We are pleased to see the Committee adopt this important piece of legislation with a favorable recommendation and we look forward to working with all members of the House of Representatives to ensure passage on the floor."


Ron Hays offers this audio overview of the drama that unfolded Wednesday in the House Ag Committee as Chairman Peterson Pushed Through Landmark Reform for US- Cuban relations.
right-click to download mp3


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