Soybean growers applaud Senate effort to lift Cuba embargo
From IBJ news services
BLOOMINGTON – The Illinois Soybean Growers today applauded U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and other senators for introducing legislation to lift the trade embargo with Cuba.
The measure, The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act, would eliminate legal barriers to Americans who do business in Cuba, potentially paving the way for new economic opportunities for American farmers and businesses by boosting exports, and allowing Cubans greater access to American goods. The other senators were Amy Klobuchar, Mike Enzi, Debbie Stabenow, Jeff Flake and Patrick Leahy.
“The Illinois Soybean Growers has been working with legislators on the various legislative efforts in front of Congress. We are pleased with the introduction of this legislation,” says Mike Levin, ISG director of issues management and analysis.
The groiup also lauded Durbin for co-sponsoring a Senate bill late last month that was introduced to lift all travel restrictions for Americans who want to visit Cuba as tourists. The House of Representatives introduced a similar travel bill, as well.
“Illinois is a top producer of soy and corn. We have excellent access to railroads, rivers and shipping containers,” says Mark Albertson, ISG director of strategic market development. In 2014, U.S. ag exports to Cuba were approximately $300 million. In 2008, they were $700 million, with about half that value coming from corn and soybeans.
“We would like to get the U.S. ag export number back to the 2008 level and beyond. If the U.S. travel ban and embargo are lifted, it is easy to foresee our food exports dramatically increasing,” Albertson says.
According to a January survey by the Pew Research Center, 63 percent of Americans approve of the Obama administration’s decision to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba after more than 50 years. Also, 66 percent of people surveyed support going further and ending the decades-long U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.
“This is another very good opportunity for Illinois soybean farmers and the businesses who use our beans,” says ISG Chairman Bill Raben, a soybean farmer from Ridgway, Ill. “This action could open a lot of doors for both soybean and meat exports. We’re pleased to see support and progress on exploring future trade opportunities with Cuba.”
The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act repeals the current legal restrictions against doing business with Cuba, including the original 1961 authorization for establishing the trade embargo; subsequent laws that required enforcement of the embargo; and other restrictive statutes that prohibit transactions between U.S.-owned or controlled firms and Cuba, and limitations on direct shipping between U.S. and Cuban ports, according to Klobuchar.
ISG has been working to increase soybean and ag exports to Cuba for several years. Efforts include visiting Cuba and meeting with top officials four times since 2012, along with educating Illinois legislative and business leaders about the economic value of trade with Cuba.
Illinois Soybean Growers is a membership organization serving more than 45,000 Illinois soybean growers. ISG provides advocacy in Springfield and Washington, D.C., to promote the interests of soybean farmers, and research, promotion and education programs that enhance soybean production and use.