U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) has joined members of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) to renew a call for Congress to end the U.S. trade embargo.
While the embargo keeps Cuban consumers from receiving U.S. goods, wheat industry officials say the action actually punishes U.S. farmers and manufacturers.
“Since Cuba can buy almost anything from anywhere except from the United States, the embargo is effectively an embargo against U.S. businesses and citizens, not of Cuba,” said USW President Alan Tracy.
After participating in a “learning journey” to Cuba March 1 to 4, U.S. USW Assistant Director of Policy Ben Conner and Kansas wheat farmer Doug Keesling asked Congress to end the U.S. trade embargo.
“Our visit was an important first step toward a stronger relationship with Cuba,” Conner said. “We appreciated the opportunity to sit down and personally discuss these issues with representatives of the Cuban government and its people. We left with the distinct impression that lifting the embargo represents a unique chance to benefit people in both countries.”
“We have exported wheat to Cuba in the past and there should be no reason why we can’t do it now or in the future,” Keesling said. “It is the biggest wheat importer in the Caribbean — just a couple days away from our Gulf ports — and our own policies are keeping us from working together again. That’s not good for farmers or for the Cuban people.”
While ongoing travel and financing restrictions negatively affect the export potential for U.S. wheat farmers, competitors in the European Union and Canada freely sell wheat to Cuba. Even if the U.S. government loosens its trade policies, the larger political implications of an ongoing embargo create an unstable business environment for the United States and Cuba.
“We will seize every opportunity to expand trade and Cuba is no exception,” said NAWG President Brett Blankenship. “Cuba represents untapped trade potential within our own hemisphere, and an end to the embargo would greatly benefit the U.S. export economy. Our wheat growers stand with America’s farm and business leaders to promote trade with Cuba today, tomorrow and well into the future.”
Last week’s visit included more than 95 U.S. agricultural leaders who met with officials of the Cuban government and learned about initiatives underway in Cuba to boost food production.
“As a result of this week’s learning journey, U.S. agricultural interests are well-positioned to facilitate a strong, two-way relationship when the embargo is lifted,” said USACC Chair Devry Boughner Vorwerk.
USW is the wheat industry’s export market development organization working to promote all six classes of U.S. wheat in more than 100 countries. Its activities are made possible through producer checkoff dollars managed by 19 state wheat commissions and cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
The purpose of the USACC is to re-establish Cuba as a market for U.S. food and agriculture exports and address liberalizing trade between the United States and Cuba. The coalition will work to end the embargo and allow for open trade and investment.