By Agri-Pulse Staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 – Calling for a ending restrictions on trade with Cuba to boost U.S. agricultural exports by some $1 billion per year, National Farmers Union (NFU) on Saturday welcomed President Obama's decision to ease restrictions on travel, remittances, and charter flights to Cuba.

Urging the President and Congress to take further action, NFU President Roger Johnson said “NFU has long-supported completely opening trade with Cuba and removing the self-imposed embargo.”

NFU points out that just under 50 years ago, 60 percent of Cuba’s food imports came from the United States and that the International Trade Commission (ITC) predicts lifting the ban on agricultural goods would increase U.S. exports to Cuba to between $924 million and $1.2 billion. An NFU statement charges that “Due to continued arbitrary restrictions on U.S. agricultural sales driven by executive orders rather than acts of Congress, agricultural sales have steadily declined with a recent report by the ITC showing an estimated mere $290 million in agricultural cash sales to Cuba.”

“It is shame to neglect the opportunity to conduct business with our Cuban neighbors,” Johnson said. “We are facing more than 50 years of failed policy with Cuba. NFU thanks the president for his efforts and encourages the administration and the 112th Congress to take up this issue that will provide market expansion for U.S. agricultural goods and the right of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba.”

Legislation introduced in the last Congress, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act (H.R. 4645), would have allowed direct financial transactions for agricultural sales to Cuba, required agricultural exports to Cuba to meet the same payment requirements as exports to other countries, and allowed U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. NFU policy supports the complete removal of the embargo and encourages reform in the financial transaction process as was outlined in H.R. 4645.

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