Ag groups support Obama on Cuba, bipartisanship

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2015 - The two biggest U.S. farmer organizations say they support President Obama's State of the Union calls for bipartisanship in Congress and an end to the Cuban embargo.

“We strongly support President Obama's efforts to normalize trade and other relations with Cuba,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said in statement following the president's Tuesday night address. “Cuba remains off-limits to almost all American trade - a self-imposed tactic that has repeatedly failed to secure reforms. American agriculture needs the same access to Cuban markets that so many other countries have. Easing trade financing restrictions is a strong beginning to U.S. food and fiber being accessible to Cuba's 11 million consumers. It's also something most Americans know is right.”

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NFU President Roger Johnson noted that reopening relations with Cuba had been a major goal of the NFU for years. “Lifting the embargo not only opens new markets for U.S. agriculture products but also gives new hope of economic prosperity to the good people of Cuba,” Johnson said in a press release.

Stallman said AFBF is also encouraged by the president's strong support for Trade Promotion Authority, which would requires Congress to vote yes or no on trade treaties without adding what he called “deal-killing amendments.” He said Congress must pass bipartisan TPA legislation to strengthen U.S. negotiating positions in future trade agreements.

Johnson, however, urged Obama to “reconsider” moving forward with the two big trade agreements currently being negotiated - the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Pacific Rim nations, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) with the European Union - arguing that free-trade deals have historically been “a very lopsided proposal” for the U.S.

“Free trade agreements are not only exporting American jobs, they are contributing to an increasing trade deficit that has become a major drag on the economy,” he said. “For 2014, the U.S. trade deficit is expected to total about $500 billion and these agreements are likely to add to that number,” he said.

The American Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers Association praised Obama's commitment to working with Congress to address trade issues. 

President Obama focused on several projects that we at ASA believe are essential to our success moving forward,” ASA President Wade Cowan said. “Soybeans are the nation's leading farm export, and it's critically important that Congress pass and the president sign a completed TPA package that will lay the groundwork for robust and comprehensive trade agreements.

NGCA President Chip Bowling stressed the need TPA to complete the trade deals.

“Modernized TPA improves our nation's ability to advance trade agreements that open markets for U.S. farmers,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling. “Ag exports, at nearly $150 billion, support over 1 million American jobs.” 

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