WASHINGTON, April 22, 2015 – Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and John Boozman, R-Ark., introduced a bill today that would allow banks to finance agricultural exports sent to Cuba, helping to open up Cuban markets to American farmers and ranchers.
“While farmers in North Dakota and all across the country dedicate their lives to feeding folks around the world, we have to make sure our producers have the opportunities they need to get their products to market,” Heitkamp said in a release. “The biggest obstacle in that effort involves private companies and banks not being able to provide credit to export agricultural commodities to Cuba, where these crops are in high demand.”
Under current law, banks are prohibited from providing lines of credit for Cuba-bound exports, so American producers are often forced to make cash payments up front to ensure their products reach Cuba. The Agricultural Export Expansion Act, cosponsored by Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., would change a provision in the current law, lifting the ban on financing and creating greater market access for producers.
“Cuba represents a remarkable opportunity for American farmers, and it’s also an opportunity for Cubans to gain access to safe, affordable, and high quality agriculture products from the United States,” Boozman said in a press release.
In North Dakota, agricultural exports generate $4.1 billion worth of commodity sales annually and support 27,000 jobs. Legume crops, such as black beans, peas, and lentils, are in high demand in Cuba, which is why Heitkamp has been jockeying for movement on Cuban export policy for over a year, according to a release.
Earlier this year, Boozman and a bipartisan team of senators introduced Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015, which would loosen travel restrictions to Cuba and remove restrictions on banking transactions incidental to travel if adopted, according to Boozman’s office.
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