Thursday the U.S. Departments of the Treasury and Commerce took a significant step forward in delivering on the President’s new direction by publishing regulatory amendments to existing Cuba sanctions.
A statement from the White House noted “these changes will immediately enable the American people to provide more resources to empower the Cuban population to become less dependent upon the state-driven economy, and help facilitate our growing relationship with the Cuban people.”
A week prior, the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) supported by more than 30 agricultural organizations and companies committed to and united around the opportunity presented by a deeper U.S.-Cuba relationship.
Under current sanctions, U.S. food and agriculture companies can legally export to Cuba. However, financing and trade restrictions limit the ability of the U.S. industry to competitively serve the market. Increasingly, foreign competitors such as Canada, Brazil, and Argentina are able to win market share from the U.S. agriculture and food industry because those countries do not face the same restrictions on financing.
"The President and this Administration look forward to engaging in an honest and serious debate about next steps in Cuba, and I have no doubt that the USACC will have an important role to play as these conversations continue and we expand our relationship with the Cuban people in the coming years," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
The USACC seeks to establish a more collaborative relationship with Cuban agricultural producers and support the import of food, beverages and other agricultural products produced in Cuba.
“Changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba can support economic growth and well-being in both countries,” said Devry Boughner Vorwerk, Cargill vice president and chair of the USACC. “Improvements in Cuba market access allows for U.S. farmers, ranchers and food companies to serve a nearby market and the Cuban people gain improved access to healthy and affordable food and feed.”
Cuba is a logical market for U.S. food and agriculture exports with 11 million consuming citizens only 90 miles off the coast of the United States.
American Soybean Assn. president Wade Cowan said he hopes the USACC can expand relationships in Cuba as it generates “concrete value for American farmers by increasing demand for not only soybeans, but also for the livestock and meat products” that make up soybean growers’ largest customer base.
Soybeans, soybean meal and soybean oil combine to represent the nation's largest agricultural export, and soy meal is a critical protein source in pork and poultry feed. The demand for these products is growing exponentially in Cuba, as it is in other Latin American and Caribbean markets. U.S. corn exports to Cuba have decreased from nearly 800,000 metric tons in 2008 to 200,000 tons in 2013.