U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran voiced his support for modifying trade between the U.S. and Cuba last week. Moran said he’s long fought to change sanctions that restrict the ability of farmers and ranchers to sell their products to Cuba.
“Cuba is only 90 miles from our border, making it a natural market for U.S. agricultural commodities, including Kansas wheat,” Moran said in a statement released shortly before Christmas.
On Dec. 17, President Obama announced that the U.S. will seek to restore full diplomacy with the communist nation of Cuba. The deal, which included the release of an American prisoner in Cuba and three Cuban prisoners held in the United States, will not allow tourism travel to Cuba. Members of a divided U.S. Congress expressed concern and commendation on the President’s deal.
Moran said the 50-year policy blocked U.S. farmers from the Cuban market, creating a trade hole that was filled by the U.S.’s competitors.
“Industry experts believe that wheat could grow to 80-90 percent of the market share in Cuba if the trade relations are eased, similar to our market share in other Caribbean nations,” Moran said in a press release. “Considering it costs an average of $20-25 per ton to ship grain from Europe to Cuba versus about $6-7 per ton from the United States, it makes economic sense for U.S. commodities to make up the lion’s share of the Cuban market.”
Moran’s support for normalizing trade relations with Cuba is not new. In 2010, then-Congressman Moran introduced House legislation to expand agricultural trade with Cuba. In 2011, he sponsored legislation to remove a trade barrier with Cuba by allowing direct cash payments from Cuban buyers to U.S. financial institutions.
Wheat, Moran said, is especially important to him because Kansas leads the nation in wheat milling and production. However, Moran said other U.S. and Kansas commodities would benefit from opening the Cuban market.
“A Texas A&M study estimates easing restrictions and lifting the travel ban could result in $365 million in additional sales of U.S. agricultural commodities, boost the U.S. economy by $1.1 billion and create 6,000 new jobs,” Moran said.
Moran said he believes easing trade and travel restrictions in Cuba may bring about reforms in the “repressive Cuban government – reforms that more than 50 years of current policy have not achieved.”
Kansans are willing to try anything once, the Senator said. “Sometimes twice or even three times. However, if we have been trying something for over five decades and it has yet to work, it time to change direction.”
“Current U.S. policy only serves to limit American’s freedom to trade and travel with the island nation while contributing to the ongoing misery of the Cuban people,” the junior Kansas Senator, said. “A change in our nation’s approach that can open Cuba up economically and politically through the exchange of commodities and ideas is necessary.”