The nation’s largest agricultural organization has voiced support for President Obama’s move toward normalized relations between the United States and Cuba. The process is expected to facilitate expanded U.S. farm exports to Cuba.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman noted that U.S. farmers currently can export goods to Cuba, “but third-party banking requirements and limited credit financing make it harder to compete in the market than it should be. We look forward to a prompt lifting of those restrictions. Improving trade relations between the United States and Cuba will expand access to a market of 11 million consumers for U.S. agriculture. That’s good for Cuba and good for America too.”
On Jan. 8, the AFBF was among more than 25 U.S. food and agriculture companies and organizations that announced creation of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba. The coalition seeks the end of the U.S. embargo on Cuba and the advancement of trade relations.
Virginia has exported agricultural goods to Cuba since 2003, the first year in which U.S. exports to that nation were allowed since 1961. In 2013, the commonwealth exported $38 million in agricultural products to Cuba, among them apples, soybeans and soybean meal. Virginia is among the top four states that export to Cuba, the other three being Louisiana, Florida and Georgia.
On Jan. 7, Gov. Terry McAuliffe met with Dr. Jose Ramon Cabanas Rodriguez, chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington. Cabanas also met with Virginia Farm Bureau Federation President Wayne F. Pryor and other VFBF representatives.
Cabanas noted that Virginia has actively pursued ag export opportunities in Cuba and consistently has sought relevant contacts and relationships. “You have been, in ways, pioneers,” he said.
Consequently, he explained, Virginia and its agricultural products are in a favorable position as the two countries begin to consider a post-embargo future. “If we are able to remove the obstacles, … I would say the limit is the sky.”
Spencer Neale, VFBF commodity marketing director, said the opportunities are present to significantly expand exports of raw and processed U.S. farm products to Cuba. “And if the United States does normalize relations with Cuba, I am sure they will have agricultural products to export to us that will be attractive to our consumers and provide an economic boost to their farm sector.”