U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., on Thursday led a bipartisan coalition to introduce a bill to lift the Cuba trade embargo.
U.S. companies can already export food and farm equipment to Cuba, but the bill and another one that would ease travel to Cuba are of great interest to U.S. farm and agribusiness leaders because they would make it easier to export.
“We appreciate Sen. Klobuchar’s leadership to advance this bipartisan bill, modernize U.S. policy toward Cuba and boost opportunities for American agriculture,” said Devry Boughner Vorwerk, vice president of corporate affairs at Cargill and chair of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba.
“Ending the embargo will enable our agriculture sector to work in partnership with Cuba and the Cuban people, develop a meaningful trading relationship, and create jobs across many sectors of our own economy,” Boughner Vorwerk said. “We urge quick action on this bill to open this new economic opportunity for U.S. farmers, ranchers and growers as soon as possible.”
The bill, titled the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act, is co-sponsored by Sens. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and “would eliminate the legal barriers to Americans doing business in Cuba,” Klobuchar said in a news release.
The legislation repeals the 1961 authorization for establishing the trade embargo; subsequent laws that required enforcement of the embargo; and other restrictive statutes that prohibit transactions between Cuba and U.S.-owned or -controlled firms, and limitations on direct shipping between U.S. and Cuban ports.
It does not repeal human rights provisions or provisions relating to property claims against the Cuban government.
“It’s time to the turn the page on our Cuba policy,” Klobuchar said. “Fifty years of the embargo have not secured our interests in Cuba and have disadvantaged American businesses by restricting commerce with a market of 11 million people just 90 miles from our shores.
“There are many issues in our relationship with Cuba that must be addressed, but this legislation to lift the embargo will begin to open up new opportunities for American companies, boost job creation and exports, and help improve the quality of life for the Cuban people,” Klobuchar said.
Stabenow, ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said in a news release, “Lifting the Cuban trade embargo represents a tremendous opportunity for Michigan and America’s farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers. After more than 50 years of stalemate, it’s time for a new policy on Cuba.
“By laying the groundwork for normal commercial relations, we can begin to provide greater access to the Cuban people to American products and more democratic ideas,” she added.
Stabenow noted that the bill would remove financial restrictions on business transactions and allow U.S. banks to extend credit to Cubans for the purchase of American farm goods, auto parts, and other consumer products, including farm equipment.
The bill does not lift the ban on American travel to Cuba, but that issue would be handled under the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, which was sponsored by Flake and co-sponsored by Leahy, Durbin, Enzi, Klobuchar, and Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Tom Udall, D-N.M.; and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at email@example.com