Washington, D.C. – Today U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D, IL-17) and Rodney Davis (R, IL-13) announced that they have signed on to support the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act (H.R. 3687), making it a bipartisan bill.
Under current law, US producers are permitted to export agricultural commodities to Cuba. However, restrictions on financing and marketing harm US competitiveness in the Cuban market and limit export potential. The Cuba Agricultural Exports Act would repeal restrictions on export financing and give producers access to Department of Agriculture marketing programs that help the US compete in foreign markets. Further, this legislation enables limited American investment in Cuban agribusinesses, as long as US regulators certify the entity is privately-owned and not controlled by the Government of Cuba, or its agents.
“To grow our agricultural economy and create new exporting opportunities for Illinois farmers, we need to cut through the red tape to open new markets,” said U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos. “By providing Cubans with access to the standard credit terms offered by virtually every other nation in the world, we’ll take a meaningful step toward increasing our agricultural exports, move toward normalizing relations with Cuba and strengthen our local economy.”
“These restrictions have placed U.S. farmers at a significant disadvantage compared to the rest of the world,” said U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis. “By removing barriers and allowing Cuba access to credit, which is offered to every other nation, we can provide increase trade opportunities for Illinois farmers.”
Bustos and Davis recently traveled to Cuba as part of a bipartisan agricultural trade mission to establish new economic development and export opportunities for Illinois farmers. The Oct. 11-14 trip was sponsored by the Illinois Cuba Working Group and spent no taxpayer funds. Other trade mission participants included Paul Johnson, Executive Director of the Illinois Cuba Working Group & President of Chicago Foods International; Todd Maisch, President and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce; Adam Nielsen, Illinois Farm Bureau Director of National Legislation; Don Duvall, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Director for District 13; Craig Ratajczyk, Chief Executive Officer, and Mike Levin, Director of Issues Management Analysis, of the Illinois Soybean Association; and Julie Maschoff of Maschoff Farms.
Since 1960, the Cuban embargo has prevented most American trade with Cuba. However, there are exemptions for agricultural exports. According to the Illinois Cuba Working Group, Illinois corn and soy exports to Cuba reached approximately $66 million in 2008. However, in 2014, it was just $24 million, a 63% decrease. U.S. Representatives Bustos and Davis, as well as the Illinois Cuba Working Group, engaged stakeholders from both nations on ways to increase Illinois’ agricultural exports.