Members of Congress joined the Cuban Ambassador to the U.S., José Ramón Cabañas Rodríguez, June 7, to discuss the benefits of fostering bilateral agricultural and economic ties between Cuba and the United States.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-AR; Rep. Rick Crawford, AR; Rep. Roger Marshall, R-KS; and Rep. Tom Emmer, R-MN participated in the Congressional roundtable moderated by Engage Cuba.

Members and the ambassador focused on reciprocal trade between Cuba and the U.S. Cuba imports 80 percent of its food, creating an opportunity for American producers to take advantage of the country’s more than $2 billion market.

“With an open market to Cuba, Kansas could top $55 million in additional sales. While we are renegotiating our trade deals, we have a $2 billion market untouched right under our nose. It is time to throw support behind this mutually beneficial economic opportunity. It is through leadership in Congress, and discussions like this roundtable that we will begin to make these lasting changes,” Marshall said.

“American agricultural producers face significant commercial barriers to trade with Cuba. Lifting the ban on private banks and companies from offering credit for agricultural exports to Cuba will help level the playing field for our famers while exposing Cubans to American values and ideals,” Boozman said.

“For years the United States has had an estranged relationship with Cuba and for years we’ve seen no reversal in the tactics used by Cuba’s oppressive government. Trade with Cuba is a vessel that will create change in Cuba and bring economic opportunity to American farmers. Most Americans agree that it’s time to lift the embargo on Cuba and Congress needs to meet that desire by working to pass my bill, H.R. 525 and others like it,” Crawford said.

“I’m grateful to have participated in this important discussion. The time to begin renewing our relationship with our neighbors just 90 miles off the Florida coast is now. With American farmers suffering some of the lowest commodity prices we have ever seen, Congress has an opportunity to take action and make real change,” Emmer said.

“The Cuba Agricultural Exports Act, sponsored by Rep. Crawford, would lift financing restrictions imposed by the embargo on agriculture exports. The result would be relief for our farmers and a first step toward redefining the American-Cuban relationship. While my bill, the Cuba Trade Act, accomplishes the ultimate goal or lifting the embargo completely, passing Rep. Crawford’s bill can, and should, happen immediately.”

Marshall, in a separate interview, said trade with Cuba could be a small step in offsetting any tariff-related trade issues with China, Canada, Mexico and the EU.

“Here’s an easy opportunity for low-hanging fruit,” Marshall said. “It represents about $2 billion in agricultural exports from the U.S. and about $50 million from Kansas. It’s not a huge market, but if we’re going to have trade difficulties, like getting NAFTA finished, at least give us Cuba.”

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or

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