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Ag groups disappointed in President’s roll-back of Cuba policies

Several agriculture groups are opposed to President Trump’s decision to reinstate the ban on travel and US business transactions with Cuba.

President Trump made the announcement earlier today (on Friday) in Miami.  “Effectively immediately,” he says.  “I am cancelling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.”

Arkansas Congressman Rick Crawford says the President’s policy is a missed opportunity for rural America, which would benefit from increased access to a 2-billion-dollar agricultural import market that is less than 90 miles from US shores.

While the US can currently sell goods to Cuba – it requires cash up-front and Crawford tells Brownfield it is the only country the US does business with on those terms.  “The argument that is presented is that they’ve got an oppressive regime, they have human rights violations, they have currency manipulation, they’re communists, they’re this, they’re that, they’re the other,” he says.  “So are most of our trading partners.  That argument doesn’t hold water.”

Arkansas is the top rice exporter in the US and Cuba has the highest per capital rice consumption in the Western Hemisphere.  In 2004, the US held nearly 40 percent of the rice market share in Cuba, but it has been lost to Vietnam and Brazil, who offer credit to Cuba to purchase ag goods.

Crawford is the cosponsor of legislation that would remove the credit restriction on trade and allow private financing of agricultural exports.

Texas farmer and National Corn Growers Association president Wesley Spurlock says Cuba should be an easy market for US corn farmers, instead the market will go to US competitors and could cost the nation’s corn farmers an estimated $125 million in lost opportunity each year.

The President says he won’t lift sanctions on the Cuban regime until all political prisoners are freed; freedom of assembly and expression are respected; all political parties are legalized; and free, internationally supervised elections are scheduled.

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