FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Tricia Braid
BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) joins other Illinois farm organizations in asking President Barack Obama to continue the expansion of trade opportunities with Cuba.
Cuba lies close enough to our southern ports that a barge can transit the distance across the ocean. It’s an excellent opportunity for Illinois commodity and food products. However, federal restrictions on financial transactions make business dealings very difficult.
“Economic research indicates that Illinois ranks sixth nationwide in terms of lost trade opportunities because of the travel and financial restrictions that remain in place with Cuba,” explained ICGA President Gary Hudson.
“If you flip the situation around and look at it from the other side, you’ll see that there really is a true need for freer trade opportunities between US agricultural interests and Cuban importers. Just one example is in livestock feed. Illinois corn products could make significant improvements in the rations of the Cuban livestock herd,” Hudson continued.
ICGA is part of the Illinois Cuba Working Group (ICWG), an entity formed at the request of the Illinois General Assembly in 2013. The organization grew out of an initiative that began in 1999 when Illinois was the first State to travel to Cuba during the embargo. Through the collaboration of Illinois political, business and community support the U.S. Congress passed the Trade Sanctions and Reform Act in 2001. That Act permitted the sale of agricultural products, and represented the first major effort to remove the embargo and barriers to "normalized" trade relations with Cuba.
The ICWG letter, on which ICGA is a signer, reminds the President that, “the Illinois Cuba Working Group (ICWG) formed strategic relationships in both nations that will facilitate expanded Illinois agri-food exports to Cuba. Our immediate priorities are achievable by amending the Trade Sanction and Reform Act to:
- establish an agricultural trade office in Cuba as a show of commitment and to facilitate/assist with communication and market entry
- remove third-country banking requirements for Cuban transactions and allowing transactions to be conducted using credit terms
- allow U.S. export promotion and assistance to U.S. ag commodities going to Cuba and
- permit U.S. food companies the ability to negotiate trade terms with Cuba.”
More information about the ICWG can be found online at www.illinoiscuba.org.