Lifting Cuban Travel Restrictions Good 'First Step'

Many proponents want to see trade restrictions addressed as well.

Published on: Apr 15, 2009

On Monday the Administration moved to allow unlimited travel to Cuba, increase remittances to Cuban families, and allow telecommunication companies to be licensed to do business in Cuba. Reaction has been positive, but a common theme has been that it was a good "first step" but more needs to be done. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson has been in favor of lifting restrictions in regards to Cuba for a long time.

"This is a very good first step," Johnson said. "I hope what happens as a result of this is we will see some reaction from the Cubans which will be perceived as very positive as well and then hopefully we can go to the Administration and continue to ask for continued loosening."

Congressman Jerry Moran, R-Kan., has also been a big proponent of opening trade channels with Cuba, and agrees that the move is a good step toward allowing U.S. democratic principles to reach Cuba, but it did nothing to lift existing restrictions on agricultural trade.

"The President stopped short of enacting real economic reform of U.S. policy toward Cuba," Moran said. "For a change in policy to have any impact, the President needs to remove the 2005 regulations that unnecessarily restricted agricultural exports to Cuba."

Changes to the decades old embargo were made in 2000 to allow agricultural exports to Cuba, however in 2005 the Treasury Department added rules that hindered the ability to make sales to the island nation.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman agrees that the move is a step in the right direction, but he too would like to see the Administration address agricultural provisions. He says ag exports to Cuba since 2000 have averaged $400 million annually and with expanded trade, agriculture sales could increase to more than $1 billion a year.

Johnson says allowing travel is very important and will result in fairly significant changes happening that probably would have happened a long time ago had the current policy not been pursued for the past 50 years.

"We're 10 U.S. Presidents down the road since this embargo was put in place and you still have largely the same government in place in Cuba," Johnson says. "So a different strategy makes a lot of sense and this is certainly a good first step."