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Heitkamp, Boozman reintroduce bill to expand exports to Cuba

Heitkamp, Boozman reintroduce bill to expand exports to Cuba
By Agweek Wire Report Today at 10:29 a.m.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and John
Boozman (R-Ark.) on Thursday reintroduced their bipartisan bill to help
American farmers and support good-paying jobs in North Dakota, Arkansas
and across the country by lifting restrictions on private financing for
U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba.

The biggest barrier for producers in North Dakota, Arkansas, and beyond
as they seek access to Cuba—a market with high demand for U.S. crops
like beans and rice—is a prohibition on providing private credit for
those exports. Heitkamp and Boozman first introduced their bipartisan
Agricultural Export Expansion Act in April 2015 to lift the ban on
private banks and companies offering credit for agricultural exports to
Cuba, and to help level the playing field for exporters across the
country and support American jobs.

“Our farmers rely on exports, and exports help create more American
jobs. Any North Dakota farmer or rancher could tell you
that,” said Heitkamp. “Financing restrictions are the number one barrier
facing North Dakota farmers who want to sell their crops to Cuba, and
this bill would do away with that obstacle. Cuba is a natural market for
North Dakota crops like dry beans, peas, and lentils, and there’s no
good reason for us to restrict farmers’ export opportunities—which
support good-paying American jobs—by continuing this outdated policy.”

“It’s time for Washington to enact commonsense reforms so Arkansas
farmers and agriculture producers across the country can compete fairly
for the Cuban marketplace,” said Boozman. “Current law prohibits
the financing of agricultural exports to Cuba and requires cash payment
up front, essentially preventing U.S. farmers from being able to export
their products to Cuba. Lifting the ban would allow private banks and
companies to offer credit for the sale of U.S. agricultural commodities
to Cuba. This small step would help level the playing field for American
farmers and exporters while simultaneously exposing Cubans to American
ideals, values and products. This bill is a win-win for American farmers
and the Cuban people.”

“North Dakota farmers rely on exports to make ends meet. This bipartisan
bill would make it easier for us to sell our top-notch black beans and
pinto beans to Cuba—a market with high demand for North Dakota
crops,” said Dan Fuglesten, of Central Valley Bean Cooperative in
Buxton, N.D. “Lifting these outdated and self-imposed restrictions will
open a critical market for American farmers and support good jobs right
here in North Dakota—and it’s time Congress acted. With commodity prices
what they are, we appreciate Senator Heitkamp’s work to expand market
access and help American farmers.”

“Being able to sell our commodities to Cuba just as easily as we sell to
other markets like Mexico and Canada would be huge, especially for
U.S.-grown rice,” said Jeff Rutledge, of Newport, Ark., a rice farmer
and president of the Arkansas Rice Council. “Senator Boozman’s bill
would strip away the regulatory red tape and allow us to compete in the
Cuban market just like we do everywhere else.”

U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dick Durbin
(D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Angus King (I-Maine), Susan Collins
(R-Maine), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Ron Wyden
(D-Ore.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) joined in
cosponsoring the bill.

In January 2016, the previous administration loosened export
restrictions to allow companies to sell non-agricultural products to
Cuba on credit, but statutory restrictions on financing agricultural
products are still in place.

For years, Heitkamp and Boozman have pushed to improve agricultural
export opportunities to Cuba and make it easier for farmers to sell
their crops to this high-demand market. Currently, all U.S. exports to
Cuba require cash up front, while other nations around the world offer
credit to Cuban importers, in effect preventing farmers and ranchers
from being able to ship their products to Cuba. The change in U.S.-Cuba
policy would provide at least some relief from low American commodity
prices by opening new markets.

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill as an
amendment to a financial services spending bill last year, as well as in
July 2015.

Source: Heitkamp, Boozman reintroduce bill to expand exports to Cuba |
Agweek –

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