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Bustos seeks agriculture deal with Cuba

Bustos seeks agriculture deal with Cuba
By Nick Vlahos
GateHouse Media Illinois
Posted Oct. 19, 2015 at 9:04 PM

The quality of bacon in Cuba isn’t all that high, evidently. Illinois
hog farmers might be able to help rectify that.
Whether a proposed federal transportation bill might be laden with pork
is to be determined.
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos addressed those issues and others before, during
and after she led a discussion Monday about a recent agricultural trade
mission to Cuba. The East Moline Democrat’s talk attracted about 35
people to Gary Rosenbohm’s farm located a few miles west of Glasford.
“With Illinois’ No. 1 economic driver being agriculture, and with the
No. 1 economic driver in this congressional district being agriculture,
we think we have a great opportunity,” Bustos said.
Part of that opportunity might lie in how Cuba accepts American
visitors, now that the Communist-ruled island and the United States have
resumed diplomatic relations.
The Cubans with whom Bustos met cited tourism as a primary economic
driver over the next decade, she said. The island is only about 90 miles
off the Florida coast. Cuba already is host to resorts that cater to
Canadians and Europeans, among others.
“What happens when you have Americans visiting Cuba?” said Bustos, who
returned stateside last week. “We’re used to eating a pretty good pork
chop here at home, so they’re going to have needs for that there.
“One of our pork producers on our trip had their bacon and didn’t have
very good reviews about it. So some good bacon down in Cuba, I think,
would go over pretty well.”
Through loopholes in a long-standing trade embargo, Illinois
agricultural concerns sold about $24 million in products last year to
Cuba, according to the group that organized Bustos’ trip. Cubans have to
pay with cash, in advance.
Bustos intends to pursue legislation designed to make it easier for
Cubans to access credit.
“If we don’t get that addressed, our opportunities will be limited,” she
Anything that might help increase corn and soybean prices 25 to 30 cents
per bushel would boost farmers, according to Rosenbohm. His family grows
corn and soybeans on about 2,300 acres in Fulton and Peoria counties.
“We’ve got to give them access to capital,” Rosenbohm said about the
Cubans. “Overall, we’ve got to increase exports. They’re only 90 miles
away. Why not start here?”
Congress is to start a possible final push this week regarding passage
of a long-term bill that would help fund road and transit programs,
Bustos said. Funding is to expire Oct. 29. About 100 amendments are part
of the proposal, which is expected to require lengthy deliberation.
Funding to enable a six-year bill might come from a Republican plan to
tax corporate profits being held overseas. House GOP leaders met with
Bustos and other Democrats recently regarding the bill.

Source: Bustos seeks agriculture deal with Cuba – News – Pekin Daily
Times – Pekin, IL –

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