US Agribusiness Licking Its Chops Over Thawed Cuba Relations

Corn rows in Iowa. (Photo: David Morris/flickr/cc)

US Agribusiness Licking Its Chops Over Thawed Cuba Relations

This week's news about Cuba represents a 'tremendous opportunities for Iowa corn farmers,' one farmer says

One group that appears to be licking its chops over the newly-thawed relations between the United States and Cuba is U.S. agribusiness.

Though the change does not end the embargo, the White House states that it does "[a]uthorize expanded sales and exports of certain goods and services from the U.S. to Cuba."

Reutersexplains: "U.S. law exempted food from a decades-old embargo on U.S. trade with the Cuba, but cumbersome rules on how transactions were executed made deals difficult and costly. The U.S. policy shift should eliminate these hurdles."

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in statement that the change "expands opportunity for U.S. farmers and ranchers to do business in Cuba. It removes technical barriers between U.S. and Cuban companies and creates a more efficient, less burdensome opportunity for Cuba to buy U.S. agricultural products. It also makes those products far more price competitive, which will expand choices for Cuban shoppers at the grocery store and create a new customer base for America's farmers and ranchers."

C. Parr Rosson III, head of the agricultural economics department at Texas A&M University, told the Associated Press that the change could soon mean $400 million to $450 million in sales of U.S. agricultural product to Cuba, compared to $350 million in 2013.

The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) cheered the change as well, with USW President Alan Tracy stating that the group's "market share there could grow from its current level of zero to around 80-90 percent, as it is in other Caribbean nations."

Bob Bowman, a farmer and chairman of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, also expressed optimism, citing "tremendous opportunities for Iowa corn farmers and Iowa to proposer from this development," and saying that "another market for our product is great," the Des Moines Registerreports.

Tom Sleight, President and CEO of U.S. Grains Council, said, "We look forward to reengaging with key players and taking advantage of this new environment to build markets for our members."

Dwight Roberts, CEO of the U.S. Rice Producers Association, eyed the possibilities as well, saying "It's an enormous rice market."

But it's not just grains. Reuters adds comment from Devry Boughner Vorwerk, a Cargill vice president and chair of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba: "Wheat hasn't traded there, rice hasn't either. Those are two new opportunities. With the enhanced tourism, the increased incomes could benefit higher-value products like beef and pork."

Multinational corporation Cargill was part of the chorus of cheers, touting in a statement what it says are clear "economic and social benefits" of trade liberalization and the potential of a "new market for U.S. farmers, ranchers and food companies."

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