MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — US agriculture has a big appetite for freer trade with Cuba. From wheat to rice to beans, the industry stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of President Barack Obama’s plan to ease economic and travel restrictions imposed against the communist-ruled island.
Agricultural exports have been among the few exceptions to the half-century old US trade embargo, though they’ve been subject to cumbersome rules — requiring cash payments up front before products are shipped, and that the payments go through banks in other countries that charge hefty fees for their services.
As a result, Latin American and Asian countries with fewer restrictions and easier financing have gained market share in recent years.
The removal of such trade barriers will make US agricultural products “far more price competitive” in Cuba, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday as the Obama administration announced plans to restore diplomatic relations and to try to persuade Congress to lift the embargo.
Major US farm groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union, as well as leading agribusinesses such as Cargill Inc, have long advocated normalised trade relations with Cuba, a market of 11 million consumers just 90 miles off US shores.