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Iowa seeking Cuba trade relations

Iowa seeking Cuba trade relations
BY REBECCA MORIN | FEBRUARY 17, 2015 5:00 AM

Iowa just can’t wait to be friends with Cuba.

This past month, Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, filed a resolution
in the Iowa Legislature supporting an enhanced trade relationship
between Cuba and Iowa.

The United State has a trade embargo on Cuba. President Obama is trying
to normalize relations with the Caribbean country.

Cuba imports about 75 to 80 percent of goods for food needs, much of it
being agriculture because of inadequate farming in that country. Iowa
leads the nation in corn production and is second in the nation in
soybean production, which was cited in Sodders’ resolution.

Several state senators and representatives are planning to take a trip
to the Caribbean to visit Cuba, along with Marshalltown resident Carlos
Cortés.

“We’re No. 1 in almost every one of those commodities,” Sodders said.
“We want to show [Iowa’s] a welcoming place, [and] we want to work with
[Cuba] in case at the federal level they really do open things up.”

But even with the urge, Iowa can’t make the decision on its own.

Brian Latell, a senior research associate with the Institute for Cuban
and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami, said he believes
the embargo on Cuba will stay in place for a few more years.

This past month in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has
begun trying to raise support to lift the Cuba embargo. Not everyone is
on board.

Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has in the past been verbal in
his to about restoring relations with Cuba.

There is a loophole, however, for Cuba to buy goods from the United States.

Since the early 2000s, Cuba could pay cash to buy American products,
which had to be paid for before the shipment left the port.

In the past couple of years, the amount of commodities bought by Cuba
has gone down, though. Other countries, such as Argentina and Brazil,
have begun allowing Cuba to use credit to purchase products — leaving
Cuba to take advantage of those opportunities.

“The Cubans are certainly interested in importing agricultural goods,”
Latell said, noting that only Congress can lift the embargo. “There is a
general movement to facilitate this.”

More than half of Americans are in favor of renewing diplomatic
relations with Cuba in addition to ending the embargo. According to a
survey conducted by Pew Research Center in January, 63 percent of
Americans support re-establishing affairs, and 66 percent want to end
trade restrictions.
In that mix are farmers.

Russell Meade, Johnson County Farm Bureau board president and a corn
farmer, said he thinks any Iowa farmer would welcome an opportunity for
more enhanced trade with Cuba.

“We did have some shipments, but with the restrictions with how they
bought it [with cash] created barriers,” Meade said. “If we can reduce
restrictions with trade, we always feel like it’s positive for Iowa and
the United States.”

Cattle farmer Steve Swenka, who usually exports his meat across the
nation and has in the past exported cattle semen to Canada and New
Zealand, said he would like the opportunity for more trade.

“Naturally, when you expand trade with any regions, it just opens up any
market; in this case, it would be agriculture,” Swenka said. “The bigger
picture in opening up trade with Cuba is opening for export masses of
agricultural, as their country continues to develop. That is the big
thing that will affect the masses in agriculture.”

Source: Iowa seeking Cuba trade relations – The Daily Iowan –
http://www.dailyiowan.com/2015/02/17/Metro/40962.html

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