Agricultural groups with a diverse array of memberships all signaled concerns with the Trump Administration’s newly announced Cuban-policy changes. From a podium in Miami, President Trump issued new and continued restrictions on the United States’ relations with Cuba in what he indicated was an effort to empower the Cuban people while pressuring the Cuban government to increase political and economic freedom.
Some of these key policy changes could directly and indirectly impact the ability of U.S. agricultural producers to increase their market access in Cuba. For instance, the new policy calls for channeling economic activities away from the Cuban government and toward free Cuban businesses, blurring the relationship U.S. agriculture has with Alimport, the official government importer of agricultural products. Moving forward, there will be greater restrictions on non-academic travel as Americans must now visit Cuba in travel groups with detailed itineraries. There are some who believe this policy change will actually increase the influence of the Cuban government, which contracts with cruise and travel companies, at the expense of Cuban individuals, who don’t have the capacity to accommodate large groups. Thirdly, the Trump Administration reaffirmed its support of the United States’ embargo of Cuba, and the Administration has made it clear that future improvements in U.S.-Cuban relations will depend on the Cuban government’s willingness to improve the lives of its people, including through political and economic freedoms.
In response to these new policy directives, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall issued a statement in which he believes the U.S. should be doing more, not less to encourage agricultural exports to Cuba and that these new policies send signals that might lead to less market access. Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union agreed with Duvall and said that these changes sends the U.S. in a backward trajectory in agricultural market access with Cuba. Commodity leaders also voiced their concerns with the policy changes as U.S. Grains Council President and CEO Tom Sleight believes they could stymie economic developments which will not only cut near-term sales but also damage long-term demand growth. Alan Tracy and David Schemm, of U.S. Wheat Associates and National Wheat Growers Association respectively, both denounced the policy changes and support measures that end the embargo. Finally, President and CEO of the USA Rice Federation said her organization will continue to advocate for the normalization of commercial trade with Cuba and that these changes will only be detrimental to American farmers and rural communities.
Written by Alex Noffsinger