Most Candidates At Iowa Ag. Summit Hesitant To Open Trade With Cuba

Most Candidates At Iowa Ag. Summit Hesitant To Open Trade With Cuba

While many of the farm groups are, some of the presidential candidates vying to be next in line for the White House aren’t fully on board with increasing Cuba trade. The current Administration is pushing to open trade with Cuba. However, most of these candidates at the Iowa Ag. Summit aren’t ready to unlock the trade doors just yet.

“My point is, I think we got a bad deal,” said Former Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Some however, would consider lifting the embargo if the country makes some changes.

“Unless they show clear changes from where they have been in the past, I would not pull back from that,” said Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker.

“I have a number of issues with it. But if they’re willing to play ball, we should be. But right now, I don’t see it,” said New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie.

“Right now, this is not something we should be doing unless there are big-time changes in Cuba,” said Former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush.

Others say the trade opportunity with a country 90 miles off the Florida coast isn’t there.

“Not until Cuba makes some concessions for freedom and liberty and releases political prisoners. I think we outta quit pretending that Cuba is some wonderful nation with whom we can sit down and visit with. They’re not,” said Former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee.

Most Ag. Organizations are promoting trade with Cuba. The United States resumed grain trade with the country in 1998. But U.S. Grains Council President and CEO Tom Sleight says if we had 100 percent market share to Cuba, the country could be our 12th largest corn market.

“That’s significant when you have two successive record harvests in the United States. You need a number 12 market,” said U.S. Grains Council President and CEO, Tom Sleight.

While candidates stand by words, this month the U.S. Ag Coalition for Cuba traveled there in order to build relationships with the country.

“We shouldn’t exclude them as an opportunity to expand the market there. I think it would be unfortunate to look past that as a potential market,” said Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Deputy Secretary, Michael Naig.

Naig says there are concerns with the Cuban Government that need to be addressed but a lot of our trading relationships are complicated.

“We have a lot of complex relationships with a lot of our trading partners around the world, certainly China and Vietnam and other places,” said Naig.

Representatives from the National Association of Wheat Growers and the U.S. Wheat Associates say “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.”

On the meat side of things, some say we have hurdles to jump. “Like a lot of Caribbean markets, Americans are going there. It’s kind of a false market, but it’s an important market. We have a lot of tourism. We think it will be there first but it’s going to be a little bit longer yet before we can do that in a large way,” said President and CEO of U.S. Meat Federation, Philip Seng.

“Cuba is going to be a market for U.S. Beef. There’s no doubt about it. As a matter of fact, we have sent live animals to Cuba for quite some time. We’re in for any market we can get into so we’re going to see how the discussions play out,” said Vice President of Government Affairs, Colin Woodall.

It’s a debate that will likely play out in Washington, well into election season. Ag exports continue to be strong. USDA says exports climbed to $152.5 Billion for fiscal year 2014, beating the record set in 2013.

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