January 9, 2015
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, congressional lawmakers, and food industry lobbyists formally announced yesterday the formation of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC), which seeks to expand food trade between the U.S and Cuba.
Founded by the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), the USACC is also supported by more than 30 agricultural organizations and companies committed to the opportunity presented by a deeper U.S.-Cuba relationship. The purpose of the USACC is to re-establish Cuba as a market for U.S. food and agriculture exports and address liberalizing trade between the two countries. The coalition will work to end the embargo and allow for open trade and investment.
NAWG and USW are encouraged by President Obama’s efforts to renew diplomatic relations with Cuba. However, it is unclear if these actions alone will be enough to restore the Cuban wheat market for U.S. farmers. That is why the organizations share USACC’s mission to re-establish Cuba as a market for U.S. food and agricultural exports.
Cuba, which does not grow wheat commercially, is the largest wheat market in the Caribbean, purchasing almost all of its wheat from the European Union and Canada. In the recent past, Cuba has imported more than 16.3 million bushels (445,000 metric tons) of wheat in a single year from the United States, sales that today would represent a value of nearly $123 million. However, under current rules set by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the United States can only export agricultural products to Cuba through the use of third-party, foreign banks, which makes facilitating trade burdensome and often more expensive for Cuba. Partly as a result, Cuba has not purchased U.S. wheat since 2011.
“U.S. wheat farmers are excited about the prospect of exporting more wheat to Cuba,” says NAWG President Paul Penner, a wheat farmer from Hillsboro, KS. “NAWG has long supported strengthened trade relations with Cuba and see this as a historic step in that direction.”
“The U.S. wheat industry applauds these efforts to normalize trade relations, which take concrete steps away from a policy approach towards Cuba that has accomplished little,” said USW President Alan Tracy. “If U.S. trade with Cuba can increasingly respond to economics rather than politics, we believe our wheat market share there will eventually grow from its current level of zero to around 80 to 90 percent, as it is in other Caribbean nations. We have a natural competitive advantage over other suppliers.”
USW is the industry’s market development organization working in more than 100 countries. Its mission is to “develop, maintain, and expand international markets to enhance the profitability of U.S. wheat farmers.” The activities of USW are made possible by producer checkoff dollars managed by 19 state wheat commissions and through cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. For more information, visit www.uswheat.org or contact your state wheat commission.
USACC Members: American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Corn Refiners Association, Illinois Cuba Working Group, Illinois Soybean Growers, Illinois Farm Bureau, International Dairy Foods Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Chicken Council, National Corn Growers Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union, National Grain and Feed Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Oilseed Processors Association, National Sorghum Producers, National Turkey Federation, North American Export Grain Association, North American Meat Institute, Soyfoods Association of North America, United Soybean Export Council, US Canola Association, US Dairy Export Council, US Dry Bean Council, US Wheat Associates, USA Rice Federation, Smithfield Foods, Chicago Foods International, Cargill and CoBank.
Steve Mercer, Vice President of Communications
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For more information about U.S. Wheat Associates, visit http://www.uswheat.org/