USA Rice Federation Supports MT Sen. Baucus' Bill to Expand Agriculture Trade to Cuba
Washington, DC—Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) held
a hearing on Dec. 12 on the Promoting American Agricultural and Medical
Exports to Cuba Act of 2007, (S. 1673), a bill he introduced earlier
this year, that would facilitate the export of U.S. agricultural
products to Cuba as authorized by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export
Enhancement Act of 2000.
Chairman Baucus noted in opening the hearing that U.S. policy toward
Cuba "undermines America's economic competitiveness. And it does not
help promote our overall foreign policy goals.
"It is high time that we rethink Cuba policy and direct it toward
today's realities and opportunities."
Regarding the regulatory action taken by the Administration in early
2005 in defining "payment of cash in advance," Chairman Baucus noted,
"our own government's rules give farmers and ranchers in other countries
a competitive advantage over American farmers and ranchers."
The Baucus bill " cosponsored by 12 other senators, including rice-state
senators Blanche L. Lincoln (D-AR), Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Mary Landrieu
(D-LA) •" would establish an agricultural export promotion program for
Cuba, remove impediments to exporting medical devices and medicines to
Cuba, and allow U.S. citizens to travel to the island.
"Cuba imports over 700,000 metric tons of rice annually and was once
our top export market.
"We expect that under normal commercial relations it will be again," USA
Rice Federation President and CEO Betsy Ward said.
"We greatly appreciate the leadership of Chairman Baucus and his
committee on this important issue."
"We look forward to continuing to work with Congress on legislation that
would allow open and normal commercial trade relations with Cuba.
"Normalized trade is long overdue and would benefit U.S. agriculture and
the Cuban people, whose most important food is rice" Ward said.
The bill's provisions include:
• Clarification of the term "payment of cash in advance" for purposes of
agricultural sales to Cuba.
• Authorization of direct transfer of funds between Cuban and U.S. banks
for purposes of payment for agricultural sales to Cuba.
• Establishment of an agricultural export promotion program to promote
and facilitate U.S. export of agricultural products to Cuba.
• Permission of U.S. citizens to travel to and from Cuba.
"The multi-generational embargo against Cuba has over the years cost the
U.S. rice industry more than $3 billion in lost contracts, and perhaps
thousands of jobs," Ward said.