Congress Trying Again to Lift Trade Restrictions with Cuba

Farm Bureau says timing is right to finally get something done.

Published on: Dec 3, 2009

The battle over Cuba trade and travel is heating up again on Capitol Hill as agriculture and other reform backers see their best chance in years for lifting restrictions.

 

The House Foreign Affairs Committee heard arguments for and against lifting travel restrictions to Cuba but it's clear Democrats and some Republicans feel the politics is now ripe for reform.

 

"I think as far as timing goes this is the right Congress and the right Administration to get something done," said American Farm Bureau's Chris Garza. "Unfortunately there are still opposition within the House and the Senate that could potentially put up roadblocks that we will have to find a way in order to get beyond."

 

Garza says if the House can move to lift travel restrictions it will help with ag trade.  The House passed and the Senate is working on a spending bill that would halt for this fiscal year, "cash before shipment" rules for ag sales to Cuba. But Garza says Farm Bureau is also looking for a more permanent fix, as without the restrictions sales to Cuba could double.

 

"Currently since 2000 our sales to Cuba have averaged about $400-500 million per year," Garza said. "And that is with restrictions in place, so we could definitely see that doubling if not even greater than that."

 

Some anti-Castro lawmakers could still slow the effort Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., did on an earlier reform bid this year. But having identical language in both House and Senate bills could make it tough to derail reform altogether.