Last week, the Obama administration announced a new Treasury rule that authorizes additional U.S. exports to Cuba and permits the private financing of these exports in an effort to strengthen trade relations not controlled by the Cuban government. In a joint announcement with the Secretary of the Treasury, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said the changes are designed to "strengthen civil society" in Cuba.
Exports of U.S. food and agriculture to Cuba, which have been permitted in U.S. statute for more than 10 years, were not affected. Sales of U.S. food and agriculture products to Cuba continue to remain ineligible for direct financing as they "primarily generate revenue for the state." For example, all rice imports into Cuba are controlled by ALIMPORT, the government agency that coordinates all overseas purchases and authorizes the import of products to Cuba.
"While this announcement is another move towards normalized commercial relations with Cuba, it's disappointing that U.S. rice farmers and exporters remain hampered by U.S. government regulations and laws that stand in our way of fully meeting Cuba's import demand for rice," said Dow Brantley, an Arkansas rice farmer and chairman of USA Rice.
On February 10, USA Rice will support the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) event commemorating both the coalition's public launch one year ago and all changes to U.S.-Cuba policy since December 2014. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will speak at the event as will two key rice-state allies on Cuba policy, Congressmen Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) and Ted Poe (R-Texas). A panel of representatives from various agricultural commodity groups, including rice, will discuss our relations at present and the impact access to Cuba could have for U.S. agriculture.