State Departments of Agriculture Ask for Lift of Cuban Restrictions

Getting aid to Cuban victims of hurricanes faces several stumbling blocks.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture has requested an immediate lift of restrictions on trade, travel and financial transactions between the United States and Cuba to help expedite the delivery of disaster aid to the island nation.

"In light of the devastation caused by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, the need for rapid humanitarian aid to the Cuban victims is essential," said North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson, president of NASDA. "We believe that a suspension of trade and travel restrictions would be an effective way to achieve that goal."

Under current law, U.S. sanctions allow food and agricultural sales to Cuba, but in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Johnson said U.S. payment and travel restrictions disrupt and sometimes prevent normal trade.

"That policy now puts our nation in a position that is inconsistent with its long history of providing humanitarian relief to victims of disaster throughout the world," Johnson said.

Damage to Cuban agriculture is extensive and an estimated 320,000 homes were destroyed by the two hurricanes.

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