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Peterson wants to open exports to Cuba

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson wants to expand exports to Cuba.

"Helping feed Cuba is good for the U.S. economy and for the Cuban people. This bill increases the ability of our farmers to sell their products to Cuba just like they do with our other trading partners," Peterson, DFL-7th District, said Tuesday in introducing bill to expand U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba.

Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said the bill has bipartisan support, with cosponsors that include 30 other members, including Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, Rep. Ross DeLauro, D-Conn., and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo.

The bill, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, won favor Wednesday from the American Soybean Association.

ASA has been a supporter of eliminating the Cuban sanctions, it said. In 2008, there wre more than $134 million worth of soy products exported to Cuba. If current policies that require third-country banks, cash advance payments and limits on travel were lifted, exports would increase.

"ASA opposes restrictions on exports of U.S. agricultural commodities for national security or foreign policy reasons that are not supported by all other major world producers and exporters," said ASA President Rob Joslin, a soybean producer from Sidney, Ohio.

"ASA favors a normal trading relationship with Cuba including direct banking and elimination of the cash in advance rule. ASA also supports the country's eligibility for the Foreign Market Development and Market Access Programs," he said.

"U.S. producers are the closest suppliers that can help meet the food and agriculture needs of the Cuban people," Peterson said. "Opportunities to sell to paying customers in Cuba have been hindered by bureaucratic red tape and by arbitrary prohibitions on the ability of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. This bill cuts the red tape and allows that trade and travel to happen."

The Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act would eliminate both the need to go through banks in other countries to conduct agricultural trades and the accompanying fees those banks charge.

The bill would also require agricultural exports to Cuba to meet the same payment requirements as exports to other countries, which means payment would be required when the title of the shipment changes hands, not in advance.

Finally, the bill would allow U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba, reducing the bureaucratic red tape currently required for individuals to travel to Cuba to facilitate new agriculture sales.

"Agricultural producers in the United States are well positioned to benefit from additional trade in Cuba," ASA's Joslin said. "U.S. suppliers can reach the three major Cuban ports in a matter of one day or less, compared to 25 days from Brazil."

The bill is H.R. 4645.