(Chad Smith) The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing this week to look into the possibilities of removing agricultural trade barriers Cuba. AFBF trade specialist Dave Salmonsen said Farm Bureau sees a lot of opportunities for agriculture if trade with Cuba can open up in the future. (Salmonsen) We did submit a statement encouraging Congress to take a hard look at some of the restrictions we’re dealing with in our agricultural trade opportunities with Cuba, and the hearing was set up to investigate those, and particularly look at issues of agricultural exports financing. (Smith) A limited exemption in the embargo was set up in 2000 to allow for agricultural goods to be sold in Cuba. However, the way that financing the trade deals was set up makes it difficult for the U.S. to move products there consistently. (Salmonsen) There was a piece in there that said that there couldn’t be any export credits offered, meaning Cuba has to pay cash. Well, that’s put us at a bit of a competitive disadvantage over the years when all the other countries of the world can allow for credit sales, which is normal in trade, so we’re certainly happy the House Agriculture Committee is taking a hard look at this. (Smith) Salmonsen said there are a lot of opportunities for agricultural trade in Cuba. (Salmonsen) Cuba imports over two billion dollars worth of food and ag products every year for their eleven million people. Currently, U.S. agriculture sells about $150-$160 million a year into those markets, and we had a high a few years ago of almost $700 million, so we’re kind of falling behind, and certainly behind our major competitors. (Smith) Farm Bureau says there’s no better time to provide American farmers and agribusinesses the tools they need to expand agricultural imports into Cuba and help our industry survive this difficult economic environment. Chad Smith, Washington.
(Jamie) Come back after the break for suggestions from a K-State Ag Economist on ways to stay ahead of the global competition.