The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).
The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2015 would repeal or revise current federal laws restricting trade with Cuba, opening a valuable marketplace for U.S. feed products, and other American products and services. The legislation would allow the industry to conduct normal business activities, including bank-to-bank credit transactions, allowing for a customary and usual trade relationship. Normal trade between the U.S. and Cuba was embargoed by Congress in 1963 after the Castro government took control of the Caribbean island nation.
"We are pleased Sen. Klobuchar has taken the first step toward normalizing trade relations with Cuba. The future of the feed industry lies not domestically, but internationally, and this bill holds the potential for our membership to build export partnerships just 90 miles off the U.S. coast," said Gina Tumbarello, AFIA director of international policy and trade.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2013 the U.S. exported $10.9 million in mixed feeds to Cuba, which ranked as the United States' No. 5 agricultural product exported to the island nation, or 2.6 percent of the U.S. total agricultural exports to Cuba. If the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act is passed, the U.S. will have the ability to compete with other countries in the Cuban market on a level playing field and open a larger customer base for U.S. agriculture. Recognizing the importance of the potential for expanded trade, AFIA recently joined the U.S. Agricultural Coalition for Cuba, which has the goal of improving agricultural trade between the U.S. and Cuba as a foundation for building successful and enduring relations between both countries.
"Opening every door in trade relations is important for the U.S. as we acknowledge the growing global population and look for ways to feed the 9.6 billion people expected by 2050," said Tumbarello.
"Cuba is just one piece of the trade puzzle," added Tumbarello, stating AFIA will continue to focus on several trade issues in 2015. "A priority remains Trade Promotion Authority for the president because it is critical to successful good-faith negotiations and completion of pending trade agreements. Without TPA, securing final trade pacts is significantly more difficult."
AFIA continues to work with a broad coalition of agriculture and business interests in urging Congress to provide President Barack Obama with TPA at the earliest possible date in order to accelerate the successful completion of pending trade agreements.