On a voice vote last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2010 Financial Services spending bill that would overturn the Bush administration's definition of payment of cash-in-advance with respect to Cuban purchases of U.S. farm products. Senator Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., offered the amendment.
"It was never in my judgment a justification for reinterpreting the law that had been administered for six years that cash in advance meant when you delivered the goods," Dorgan said. "They changed it so that it was before you shipped the goods. There was never justification for that."
Dorgan assured the panel that his amendment has everything to do with helping American farmers and nothing to do with propping up the regime of Cuba's President Raul Castro.
"We want to go back to the original intent of the law so that our farmers have an opportunity to sell into that marketplace just as the Canadian farmers and European farmers and others do," Dorgan said. "Every farm organization in the country, they all want this change; it's just the right thing to do."
There was no dissenting debate and only one Senator on the committee voted against Dorgan's amendment.
U.S. farm exports to Cuba have averaged $400 million annually since 2000 with top commodity sales including poultry, wheat, soybeans, rice and dairy. With enactment of Dorgan's amendment and removal of all Cold War-era restrictions against Havana the American Farm Bureau Federation projects yearly ag exports to the island nation to increase to more than $1 billion.