Texas rice farmers have anxiously been following efforts in Congress to end the economic embargo in Cuba. Passed during the Cold War, trade with and travel to Cuba has been banned by the US for decades. Farmers now, particularly rice farmers in Texas hope that these bans will be lifted, opening Cuban markets to US trade. Unconcerned with ideological issues, farmers are more interested in potential profits than partisan hostilities. “Farmers are bottom line-oriented,” said Thomas Wynn, an economist and rice farmer from Egypt, Texas.
Proponents of ending the ban believe that the sluggish US economy offers the best chance in years to end the embargo and open up Cuban trade. They also believe that ending the ban could reinvigorate the US economy, particularly the Texas rice trade, which has suffered from the recent economic decline. “The impacts would be enough to ensure the survival of a significant percentage of Texas agriculture,” Wynn said.
If the embargo is lifted, economists have estimated a significant increase in economic activity in Texas. Opening the agricultural market in Cuba could potentially double Texas’ agriculture exports, adding $18 billion to a $20 billion economy. Trade with Cuba would also help generate $16 billion in overall agricultural economic activity. On a national level, Cuban trade could generate over $350 million and generate thousands of new jobs. At a time when we are struggling to create jobs, this is a bill that would help solve at least part of the problem,” said Parr Rosson, an economist in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M’s Texas AgriLife Extension.