Easing rules with Cuba divides farm lawmakers
By PHILIP BRASHER • firstname.lastname@example.org • March 13, 2010
Washington, D.C. – An effort is under way in Congress again to ease
restrictions on trade with Cuba to boost U.S. farm exports, but
farm-state lawmakers are split over whether it is a good idea to allow
Americans to more freely travel there.
Farm groups argue that easing the embargo and promoting U.S. tourism in
Cuba will improve America's image there and undermine the Castro regime.
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Ia., doesn't buy it. He said at a House
Agriculture Committee hearing Thursday that the United States should
wait for the "biological solution," referring to the demise of the
"I want to wait out this biological solution," he said.
The committee chairman, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has introduced a
bill that would lift restrictions on Cuban purchases of U.S. food and
end limits on American travel to the island. The embargo means U.S.
farmers are losing sales to competitors from Brazil and elsewhere, he said.
He released letters from Human Rights Watch and the U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops supporting the legislation. Having "more, rather than
less, contact" with Cubans will improve their lives, the bishops said.
"We're just spiting ourselves not to take advantage of this market,"
said U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Ia., a co-sponsor of the bill.
"Dammit, it's time to do this."
Farm groups say U.S. food exports to Cuba could double, given Cuban
demand for pork, chicken, beans, rice and other commodities. Last year,
Cuba bought $528 million in U.S. food.
Previous efforts to ease the embargo have met strong resistance, and
Republicans on the House committee are split over whether the
restrictions on travel should be changed.
Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said
allowing for U.S. tourism in Cuba would encourage Cubans to view the
United States more favorably.
A Republican co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jerry Moran, said the United
States has a double standard toward China and Cuba. He seemed to chide
some of his critics back home in Kansas.
"In Kansas, we would not object to selling Boeing aircraft to China, yet
we are worrying about selling wheat to Cuba," he said.
Increasing food sales to Cuba takes money from the Cuban government and
puts "it in the pockets of American farmers and agribusiness," Moran said.
But Republicans such as King are cool at best to the legislation, or at
least oppose an easing of travel restrictions. "We have invested a full
half a century into waiting out the biological solution in Cuba," King said.
Rep. Mike Conway, R-Texas, questioned whether the regime can be
weakened. "There's not enough misery in the system for them to rear up
against the totalitarian government they are living under."
Other Republicans said money spent by U.S. tourists in Cuba would wind
up with the government, not the people.
Easing rules with Cuba divides farm lawmakers | desmoinesregister.com |
The Des Moines Register (14 March 2010)