The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved an amendment to allow direct cash transfers between U.S. and Cuban financial institutions. Currently sales to Cuba have to be routed through a bank in another country. The amendment, which was sponsored by Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan., was passed by the committee on a vote of 20-10.
"Current U.S. trade policies hurt American farmers and ranchers by making it more expensive for Cuba to purchase agriculture products from the United States," Moran said. "This means Cuba is buying more of its food from countries such as Vietnam and China. The change is an important step to increase American export sales and support thousands of American jobs without increasing the debt.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson praised the move by the committee.
"NFU has long been a supporter of trade with Cuba," Johnson said. "These self-imposed restrictions hurt our own domestic producers and make U.S. trade less competitive. The U.S. has exported $4 billion of agriculture goods to Cuba since 2000, and that number will grow with the elimination of this unnecessary trade barrier."
The amendment will fuel economic growth and enable agricultural producers to compete on a level playing field.
"At a time of high unemployment and stagnant economic growth, allowing direct cash transfers between the U.S. and Cuba provides a unique opportunity to create jobs and stimulate economic development in rural America. U.S. farmers and ranchers should be able to do business with customers in the United States’ backyard," Johnson said. "It just makes sense. I encourage the full Senate to pass this amendment in its current form as quickly as possible."
The bill was voted out of committee on Thursday and will now move to Senate floor for a vote.
According to a Texas A&M University report, giving relief from the current regulatory prohibitions on direct cash transfers could increase annual agricultural exports to Cuba by over $270 million and support nearly 4,500 United States jobs per year.