The American Farm Bureau and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are supporting changes to the United States' policy on relations with Cuba, announced Wednesday morning by President Barack Obama.
The President said the changes are the most significant in more than 50 years, and will include reinstatement of diplomatic relations with Cuba in addition to establishment of a new embassy in Havana.
Also, the President said the U.S. government will take steps to increase travel, commerce and the flow of information to and from Cuba, as well as easing restrictions on financial transactions. Telecommunications connections also will be improved to facilitate the sale of U.S. goods in Cuba, the President said.
Following the President's announcement, the American Farm Bureau said it "strongly supports" steps toward normalized trade with Cuba, a move it has long called for.
“The president’s opening to Cuba promises to improve trade conditions by making it easier for Cuba to buy U.S. agricultural and food products. This is welcome news for our nation’s farmers and ranchers," President Bob Stallman noted in a press statement.
“Right now, U.S. farmers can export to Cuba, but third-party banking requirements and limited credit financing make it harder to compete in the market than it should be. We look forward to a prompt lifting of those restrictions."
Stallman said improving trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba will expand access to a market of 11 million consumers for U.S. agriculture.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., also highlighted benefits for U.S. agriculture.
“To help our farmers do their jobs, we need to make sure they have export opportunities to ship their products around the country and the world,” Heitkamp said in a press statement. "Rather than Cuba importing beans, corn, and grain from our agricultural competitors, our farmers should be able to provide more of our products to feed Cuba."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also said the change is likely to provide shared benefits to the U.S. and the Cuban private sectors, "allowing free enterprise to flourish."
"Cuba has changed some of its economic policies to lessen government control. Or ownership of Cuban businesses, and subsequently, their private sector is growing," a Chamber statement said. "There is still work to do, on both sides of this relationship, but the changes outlined today are a substantive and positive step forward."
As the President noted Wednesday, the U.S. has prohibited travel and commerce with Cuba since the 1961, standing against the country's communist government.
However, in light of the advancements Cubans have contributed to the U.S., and the Wednesday release of imprisoned U.S. citizen Alan Gross, President Obama said the changes are "the right thing to do."
"Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future," he said.
See the President's entire address and more details on policy changes on the White House Website.