Today the Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) commends U.S. President Barack Obama and the State Department for recommending removing Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Cuba, which is 90 miles off the U.S. coast, has been on the list since March 1, 1982.
“This is an important step to allow U.S. banks the freedom to handle transactions with Cuba without fear of U.S. repercussions,” said Bill Raben, ISG chairman and soybean farmer from Ridgway, Ill. “We’re pleased to see this next step in easing trade restrictions with Cuba. As the nation’s top soybean producing state, the momentum on this issue is exciting for Illinois agriculture and our soybean farmers.”
Soy is Cuba’s second largest import from the United States, behind chicken, a top soybean consumer, according to the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 2014, U.S. ag exports to Cuba were $287 million, with soy valued at nearly $98 million. In 2008, ag exports were $685 million, with about half that value coming from corn and soybeans.
Since 2012, ISG farmer-leaders and staff have visited Cuba five times, with a sixth visit planned for November to promote Illinois’ quality soy at the annual international trade show.
“We’ve been to Cuba, we’ve met with customers and we’ve heard from the Cuban people,” said Duane Dahlman, ISG Marketing Committee Chairman and a soybean farmer from Marengo who has visited Cuba. “All of this gives us the necessary perspective and contacts to capitalize on eased trade restrictions.”
Dahlman’s fellow board member John Longley of Aledo, said previously, “Illinois farm products are a natural fit for Cuba because of our geographic proximity and our commitment to quality. It is up to us to continue our leadership of improving trade relations and being a good neighbor to our Cuban customers and friends.”
ISG has been leading efforts to increase soybean and ag exports to Cuba. Efforts include visiting Cuba and meeting with top officials, along with educating Illinois legislative and business leaders about the economic value of trade with Cuba. Earlier this year, ISG thanked Illinois legislators who have supported both ending the embargo to Cuba and opening up travel restrictions.
ISG and Illinois have led efforts to advance relations with Cuba as a founding member of both the Illinois Cuba Working Group (ICWG) and U.S. Ag Coalition for Cuba (USACC). In 2013 the Illinois General Assembly passed a unanimous resolution calling for the end to the embargo, improved trade relations with Cuba and the creation of the ICWG.
Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) is a membership organization serving more than 45,000 Illinois soybean growers. ISG provides advocacy in Springfield and Washington, D.C., to promote the interests of soybean farmers, and research, promotion and education programs that enhance soybean production and use. For more information, visit the website www.ilsoygrowers.org.
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