Wheat Scoop: Suppes--let's lift trade sanctions with Cuba
The last three years, Ron Suppes, past chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates, has traveled the globe in an outreach effort designed to increase the amount of wheat other countries buy from the United States.
"American farmers have either been blessed with or cursed by optimism and determination," USW Past Chairman Ron Suppes of Dighton, Kan., recently wrote in a letter to a local newspaper. "For the most part these characteristics have been the cornerstone of our success."
Suppes added that the current economic crisis may test farmers yet again and that they need to get out in front of the business challenges ahead by banding together again through representing organizations. Bailouts are not the answer, he wrote. "The way out of a recession is through trade."
Suppes said U.S. farmers should urge the U.S. Congress to implement bilateral Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. He also sees opening trade with Cuba as a top priority.
"Congressman Jerry Moran has sponsored a bill to lift all sanctions against Cuba," he wrote. "The time is right to make this happen."
Moran, R-KS, recently wrote President-elect Obama encouraging changes to regulations put in place in 2005 that have hindered agriculture and food exports under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000. Moran was the original sponsor of this legislation, which allowed the export of food, agricultural commodities and medical supplies from the U.S. to Cuba.
A release from Moran's office noted that in 2005, "a regulation was introduced by the Treasury Department that changed the meaning of trade policies with Cuba under TSRA by redefining the meaning of 'payment of cash in advance.' Under this regulation, cash payments from Cuba for U.S. agriculture exports are required to be made before ships leave U.S. ports rather than upon delivery, making it difficult for American farmers to sell their products to Cuba..."
USW believes U.S. wheat exports to Cuba could grow by 60 percent if, as Moran suggested, the U.S. ends all trade sanctions.
Suppes observed that, "the people of Cuba are optimistic about trade with us and want this change, too. Through our eternal optimism as farmers, along with our unstoppable determination, we can make this happen."
At its joint board meeting in December 2008, the Kansas Wheat Commission voted unanimously to support Congressman Moran's efforts to resume trade with Cuba.
More evidence of this opportunity came with a message USW President Alan Tracy recently received from Alexander Pérez Cartaya, Director General Grains Business Unit/División Cereales with Cuba's food importing ministry, Alimport, acknowledging the 50-year anniversary of organized U.S. wheat export promotion:
"We at Alimport would like to express our best wishes," he wrote, "and commend the day-to-day, most professional work that you and your people perform in the benefit not only of the U.S. agribusiness community, but of the whole world."