On Wednesday, September 29, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will “mark up” legislation that would expand trade and travel opportunities with Cuba. Illinois Corn is hoping that the bill, H.R. 4645, will pass the Committee without amendment. It passed the House Ag Committee back on June 30. Illinois’ only member on the Foreign Affairs Committee is Congressman Manzullo.
This is an op-ed letter that was placed in major newspapers about H.R. 4645, legislation that IL Corn and NCGA support.
NOTE FROM IL CORN: Cuba Mark-up now postponed
Statement of Chairman Howard L. Berman on H.R. 4645
Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement regarding the markup of H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act:
“For a very long time, I have either led or supported efforts to repeal restrictions on the freedom of Americans to travel. The current prohibition on Americans traveling to Cuba is the last obstacle to the full enjoyment of this right. I strongly support H.R.4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which would eliminate the Cuba travel restrictions.
“The Committee had been scheduled to consider this legislation tomorrow, but it now appears that Wednesday will be the last day that Congress is in session before an extended district work period. That makes it increasingly likely that our discussion of the bill will be disrupted or cut short by votes or other activity on the House floor. Accordingly, I am postponing consideration of H.R. 4645 until a time when the Committee will be able to hold the robust and uninterrupted debate this important issue deserves. I firmly believe that when we debate and vote on the merits of this legislation, and I intend for it to be soon, the right to travel will be restored to all Americans.”
On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is considering legislation that would increase U.S. agricultural trade to Cuba. As a family farmer, I find this legislation very important for a number of reasons.
Right now, the trade embargo we have with Cuba is working very well against a group it was not intended to affect—American farmers like me. While some farm exports do flow from American farms to Cuba, farmers do not compete on a level playing field against their international competition to supply this market. Last year, Cuba was our 10th largest market for corn. We need the same rules to not only preserve and protect this market but to expand.
Unintended consequences happen all the time from policy decisions, but that does not mean this one can’t be fixed for our farmers. The Cuban trade legislation lifts the requirement known as “cash in advance” that makes the Cuban importer pay for U.S. agricultural goods while they are still at our port, instead of payment before title changes, which is generally at the point of import. This makes our products more expensive compared to other countries that do not impose the same requirement. The bill also changes “third party banking” to allow the Cuban importer to pay a U.S. bank directly, instead of going through a non-U.S. third-party bank, which adds a transaction cost that our competitors do not require.
Importantly, the legislation, H.R. 4645, also lifts the travel ban and in doing so, would allow U.S. tourists to go to Cuba, but would not increase travel from Cuba to the United States in any way. This change is integral to increasing demand, especially for our value-added products such as chicken, beef and dried distillers grains.
This bill is a bipartisan effort to help eliminate competitive disadvantages and expand U.S. trade. And it is important to note that the embargo would not be lifted. I urge all members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, especially Rep. Manzullo, to seriously consider the whole picture and say “yes” to these changes that increase one-way trade to Cuba and vote for final passage without amendment.