USDA Sec. Perdue supports bill to expand ag exports to Cuba

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue pledged his support for expanding agricultural trade with Cuba at a House Agricultural Committee hearing, according to a press release from the Engage Cuba coalition.

In an exchange with U.S. Representative Rick Crawford (R-AR), Sec. Perdue expressed his support for bipartisan legislation that would remove restrictions on offering private financing for the sale of agricultural commodities to Cuba, the press release stated. Rep. Crawford additionally pressed for Perdue to be a vocal advocate for farmers and ranchers across the country as the Trump Administration undergoes its U.S.-Cuba policy review.

According to the press release, James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, said that “having traveled to Cuba as Governor of Georgia, Secretary Perdue knows first-hand the significant opportunities for U.S. farmers in emerging markets there.  

“Commodity prices are dropping. Farmers across the country are struggling. At the same time, our island neighbor is importing $2 billion of ag products a year from our foreign competitors. We’re optimistic that President Trump has selected a Secretary that will fight to remove trade restrictions on exporting food to Cuba that would not only help U.S. farmers, but also help boost Cuba’s economy and agriculture production capacity,” he said.

Below is the transcript of U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) and Sec. Perdue at the hearing as stated on the press release.

Rep. Rick Crawford: : I also want to thank you for your comments during your confirmation hearing with regard to Cuba. I think that’s very important, as we’ve had a chance to […] the value that proposition presents for U.S. farmers and ranchers. And I know at this point, the White House is right now undergoing a Cuba policy review and considering whether or not to reverse course on our recent expansion of regs with Cuba. I hope that you’ll be a vocal advocate on that so that when they do develop that policy, it would be inclusive on the ag front…On that note, HR 525 is something we’ve been working on for a while now. 

The Cuba Ag Exports Act removes the financial restrictions that you mentioned. Right now, we can sell ag products in Cuba, but it’s a cash up front requirement that is really an impediment to fully realizing the potential of that market for U.S. producers. Many of the members of this committee are cosponsors of that legislation, including the chairman and the ranking member. I hope that you would be able to review that and endorse that bill because we want to try and move that forward as quickly as we can and provide greater access.

U.S. Sec. Sonny Perdue: As I said, I think that’s something I would be supportive of if folks around the world need private credit to buy our products, and I’m all for that. 

Sec. Perdue has long been a supporter of expanding agricultural trade to Cuba, having expressed his support during in his Senate confirmation hearing as well as during his time as Governor of Georgia following a trade delegation trip to Cuba.
The Cuba Agricultural Exports Act was introduced by Rep. Crawford on January 13, 2017. More information on Cuba’s agricultural sector is available here.

About Engage Cuba
Engage Cuba is the leading coalition of private companies and organizations working to end the travel and trade embargo on Cuba. As a 501(c)(4) bipartisan non-profit whose funds are entirely dedicated to advocacy efforts, Engage Cuba is the only organization whose focus is U.S.-Cuba legislative advocacy. Engage Cuba is also committed to supporting the Cuban people and helping organizations and businesses navigate Cuban and U.S. regulations. The organization has the largest bipartisan lobbying operation working on U.S.-Cuba policy. Together with the Engage Cuba Policy Council of renowned experts, Engage Cuba provides timely updates on opportunities for U.S. business in Cuba, regulations, and market analysis.