Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) joined with other members of the Illinois Cuba Working Group (ICWG) late last week in formally asking President Barack Obama to continue to advance the U.S.-Cuba relationship.
As part of the Illinois Cuba Working Group, ISG believes both the U.S. and Cuba can benefit with an increased exchange of ideas, knowledge, capital and credit.
“Illinois ranks sixth nationwide in terms of lost opportunities to its agri-food sector due to the embargo on Cuba,” states a letter sent to the President by ICWG members. “Removal of U.S. travel and financial restrictions would increase agricultural exports to Cuba and create Illinois jobs. In addition to increased corn, wheat, soy, pork, beef and dairy business activity, tourism, financial and business services, fuel and other sectors stand to benefit.”
In the past year, the ICWG has formed strategic relationships in both nations to facilitate expanded Illinois agri-food exports to Cuba. ICWG’s immediate priorities are achievable by amending the Trade Sanction and Reform Act to:
- establish an agricultural trade office in Cuba as a show of commitment and to facilitate/assist with communication and market entry.
- remove third-country banking requirements for Cuban transactions and allow transactions to be conducted using credit terms.
- allow U.S. export promotion and assistance to U.S. ag commodities going to Cuba.
- permit U.S. food companies the ability to negotiate trade terms with Cuba.
“Cuba is an important market for Illinois soybeans, given the soybean, meal and oil export potential,” says Bill Raben, soybean farmer from Ridgway, Ill., and ISA chairman. “Although ag products are exempt from the embargo, we are losing significant market share on our soy exports because of restrictions the U.S. imposes on financial transactions with Cuba.”
The Illinois Cuba Working was formed at the request of the Illinois General Assembly. The organization grew out of an initiative that began in 1999 when Illinois was the first state to travel to Cuba during the embargo. Through the collaboration of Illinois political, business and community support, Congress passed the Trade Sanctions and Reform Act in 2001. That act permitted the sale of ag products, and represented the first major effort to remove the embargo and barriers to “normalized” trade relations with Cuba. For details, visit http://illinoiscuba.org.