thumbnail

Washington, D.C. — After participating in a “learning journey” to Cuba March 1 to 4, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) have joined members of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) to renew a call for Congress to end the U.S. trade embargo.

USW Assistant Director of Policy Ben Conner and Kansas wheat farmer Doug Keesling represented the U.S. wheat industry on the trip.

“Our visit was an important first step toward a stronger relationship with Cuba,” Conner said. “We appreciated the opportunity to sit down and personally discuss these issues with representatives of the Cuban government and its people. We left with the distinct impression that lifting the embargo represents a unique chance to benefit people in both countries.”

“We have exported wheat to Cuba in the past and there should be no reason why we can’t do it now or in the future,” Keesling said. “It is the biggest wheat importer in the Caribbean — just a couple days away from our Gulf ports — and our own policies are keeping us from working together again. That’s not good for farmers or for the Cuban people.”

While ongoing travel and financing restrictions negatively affect the export potential for U.S. wheat farmers, competitors in the European Union and Canada freely sell wheat to Cuba. Even if the U.S. government loosens its trade policies, the larger political implications of an ongoing embargo create an unstable business environment for the United States and Cuba.

“Since Cuba can buy almost anything from anywhere except from the United States, the embargo is effectively an embargo against U.S. businesses and citizens, not of Cuba,” said USW President Alan Tracy.

“We will seize every opportunity to expand trade and Cuba is no exception,” said NAWG President Brett Blankenship. “Cuba represents untapped trade potential within our own hemisphere, and an end to the embargo would greatly benefit the U.S. export economy. Our wheat growers stand with America’s farm and business leaders to promote trade with Cuba today, tomorrow and well into the future.”

Last week’s visit included more than 95 U.S. agricultural leaders who met with officials of the Cuban government and learned about initiatives underway in Cuba to boost food production.

“As a result of this week’s learning journey, U.S. agricultural interests are well-positioned to facilitate a strong, two-way relationship when the embargo is lifted,” said USACC Chair Devry Boughner Vorwerk.

USW is the wheat industry’s export market development organization working to promote all six classes of U.S. wheat in more than 100 countries. Its activities are made possible through producer checkoff dollars managed by 19 state wheat commissions and cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

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 United States and Cuba. The coalition will work to end the embargo and allow for open trade and investment.

# # #

Nondiscrimination and Alternate Means of Communications
U.S. Wheat Associates prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, marital or family status, age, disability, political beliefs or sexual orientation. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact U.S. Wheat Associates at 202-463-0999 (TDD/TTY – 800-877-8339, or from outside the U.S.- 605-331-4923). To file a complaint of discrimination, write to Vice President of Finance, U.S. Wheat Associates, 3103 10th Street, North, Arlington, VA 22201, or call 202-463-0999. U.S. Wheat Associates is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

thumbnail

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Feb. 12, 2015, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced major legislation that would end the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba. The bill would end the restrictions on U.S. companies doing business in Cuba that have been in place since 1961. Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) co-sponsored the bill.

NAWG and USW are pleased to see bipartisan Congressional progress being made, and look toward a speedy and permanent end to the Cuban trade embargo. NAWG and USW are members of the U.S. Agricultural Coalition for Cuba, which also endorsed the legislation.

“It is refreshing to see our nation’s lawmakers reaching across the aisle to produce real and meaningful change. Increased trade with Cuba has great potential for U.S. wheat growers,” commented NAWG president Paul Penner.

Cuba’s 11 million people consume close to one million metric tons of wheat each year. It is the largest wheat market in the Caribbean, but it currently purchases almost all of that wheat from the European Union and Canada. Cuba could import at least 500,000 metric tons of wheat from the United States each year but has not purchased U.S. wheat since 2011. Under the current embargo, the United States can export agricultural products to Cuba through the use of third-party banking institutions, which makes facilitating trade burdensome and often more expensive.

“The farmer directors of NAWG and USW recently renewed a call to end the Cuban trade embargo,” said USW President Alan Tracy. “We support the bipartisan effort in the Senate that moves us one step closer to seeing U.S. wheat flowing to our Cuban neighbors again.”

USW is the wheat industry’s export market development organization working to promote all six classes of U.S. wheat in more than 100 countries. Its activities are made possible through producer checkoff dollars managed by 19 state wheat commissions and cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

# # #

Nondiscrimination and Alternate Means of Communications
U.S. Wheat Associates prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, marital or family status, age, disability, political beliefs or sexual orientation. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact U.S. Wheat Associates at 202-463-0999 (TDD/TTY – 800-877-8339, or from outside the U.S.- 605-331-4923). To file a complaint of discrimination, write to Vice President of Finance, U.S. Wheat Associates, 3103 10th Street, North, Arlington, VA 22201, or call 202-463-0999. U.S. Wheat Associates is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

thumbnail

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) are pleased to be founding members of the U.S. Agricultural Coalition for Cuba (USACC). The organizations 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 they 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.

The National Association of Wheat Growers was founded more than 60 years ago by producers who wanted to work together for the common good of the industry. Today, NAWG works with its 22 affiliated state associations and many coalition partners on issues as diverse as federal farm policy, environmental regulation, the future commercialization of biotechnology in wheat and uniting the wheat industry around common goals.

# # #

Nondiscrimination and Alternate Means of Communications
U.S. Wheat Associates prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, marital or family status, age, disability, political beliefs or sexual orientation. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact U.S. Wheat Associates at 202-463-0999 (TDD/TTY – 800-877-8339, or from outside the U.S.- 605-331-4923). To file a complaint of discrimination, write to Vice President of Finance, USW, 3103 10th Street, North, Arlington, VA 22201, or call 202-463-0999. USW is an equal opportunity provider and employer.