WASHINGTON: The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC), a group dedicated to the liberalization of trade between the United States and Cuba, applauded the progress made in the past year since President Obama announced plans for the United States to reestablish diplomatic relations and expand trade and travel with Cuba. December 17 marks one year since the two countries made the historic announcement.
A national coalition of members of the U.S. food and agriculture companies and organizations, USACC works to end the U.S. embargo with Cuba and reestablish open trade and investment between the two countries.
“USACC began its first year of existence on the common realization by U.S. agricultural interests— including producers, growers and agribusiness companies—that the ongoing embargo with Cuba had far outlasted its purpose, and now only served as an obstacle to the common trade interests of the two countries,” said USACC Chair Devry Boughner Vorwerk. “Now only a year in, we have seen great advances toward that goal—among them the reopening of the U.S. embassy in Havana in July,the release of two new sets of regulations expanding trade and travel opportunities, a trade mission to Cuba last month by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.”
As part of that effort, more than 95 USACC members representing more than a dozen U.S. states traveled to Cuba in March to participate in a four-day “Learning Journey.” Throughout the course of the event, members met with Cuban officials, farmers and agricultural cooperatives to learn about the nation’s initiatives to boost food production—at the same time laying the groundwork for U.S. agricultural interests to enter strong, bilateral relationships with Cuban partners.
Since December 2014, several members of the U.S. House and Senate have introduced bills that would remove unnecessary barriers and advance an end to the embargo, showing much-needed leadership on Capitol Hill. Theone-year anniversary of the history-making announcement coincides with the creation of a new bi-partisan Cuba working group in the U.S. House of Representatives. Members of that group include Reps. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Rosa DeLauro (D- Conn.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Mark Sanford (R- S.C.), and Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.).
“With the creation of this congressional working group, the U.S. can begin the work of developing new policies to normalize our trade with Cuba,” USACC Co-Chair Paul D. Johnson said. “Just as we have worked with key stakeholders to build momentum to reestablish trade relations, we will work with Congress to bring those efforts to fruition in a way that benefits both countries’ interests—providing the U.S. farm and business community with new market access opportunities, while enhancing Cuban citizens’ access to affordable food.” 2016 will be an important year as USACC continues to call on Congress to work to end the longstanding embargo.