Last week, several farmers and more than 20 members of the Illinois Farm Bureau returned from a weeklong trip to Cuba, whose purpose was to gather information about the effect of the embargo on American agricultural trade.
The Cuban embargo is a holdover from the Cold War. Two years after the Cuban Revolution, which toppled President Fulgencio Batista, the Communist government nationalized the property of American citizens and corporations, prompting the U.S. government to react by restricting trade with the island nation. In 1992, this embargo was codified in the Cuban Democracy Act, which forbade trade with and travel to Cuba as long as the Cuban government opposed democratic reforms.
While some limited trade with Cuba is allowed under the terms of the embargo, all sales must be made in cash, as the use of credit is still prohibited.
According to many farmers, the embargo, in addition to being unnecessary, is bad for business. Farm exports are quickly emerging as one of the most dynamic elements of the farm industry, with free trade agreements fueling expanded trade. Removing the many hurdles involved in trade with Cuba would be a major benefit to farmers across the country.
Rice farmers, for example, could greatly benefit from an expanded market. Despite being less than 800 miles from Mississippi and major rice producers, Cuba is forced to import that staple grain from Vietnam, diverting significant sales away from the United States.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer