American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman was on Capitol Hill Tuesday, speaking in support of S. 428, which opens Cuba to travel by U.S. citizens and gives the U.S. President authority to restrict travel to Cuba only in times of war or imminent danger.
"This legislation is an important step in easing trade restrictions on Cuba," Stallman said. "Allowing unrestricted travel to Cuba will increase U.S. agricultural sales and boost tourism."
Several members of Congress and various farm groups have been pushing for opening access to Cuba. Since 2000, when regulations were changed to allow cash sales of agricultural products to Cuba, the island nation has purchased an average of $400 million annually.
According to Stallman language in the omnibus appropriations bill further aids U.S. agriculture by allowing travel on a general license for those making agricultural sales to Cuba rather than the specific license currently needed. This would ease delays that significantly impact the ability to transact commercial sales with Cuba, which in some cases, have been lost to U.S. competitors because of the restriction.
Farm Bureau also wants Cuba to be allowed to wire payments to U.S. banks instead of being required to route payments through third-country banks; define cash payments in advance as intended by Congress in the 2000 Trade Sanctions and Reform Act; and issue visas for Cuban inspectors to travel to the U.S. to meet with suppliers, inspect facilities and verify procedures and standards associated with the sale of U.S. food and agricultural exports to Cuba.