U.S. wheat industry officials, meeting June 27, in Seattle at a board meeting of U.S. wheat Associates, were heartened to learn of the evident Congressional compromise on sanctions that would allow exports of wheat to Cuba.
"The wheat industry praises George Nethercutt for his tenacious efforts to keep this issue alive, and for moving it forward to the next stage," said Barbara Spangler, executive director of WETEC, the trade policy and lobbying organization representing the wheat industry on trade issues.
"We are excited about the possibilities of an imminent vote that would allow sales to both the government and private sectors in Cuba. We are disappointed that we still have restrictions on financing and licensing, but these are issues that we will continue to work on."
Chris Shaffer, a Walla Walla, Washington wheat grower and outgoing chairman of USW and WETEC, expressed especial pride that the effort to ease sanctions on food and medicine was carried forward by Rep. Nethercutt.
"While sales are not imminent, Cuban wheat purchasing officials, with whom we met recently, indicated that they were anxiously watching this process because they wanted to buy U.S. wheat," Shaffer explained. "Nethercutt has long represented our interests and knew the importance of opening the doors that have long been shut to wheat growers."
Alan Tracy, president of U.S. wheat Associates, the industry's export market development organization, explained that there are still issues to be resolved before wheat purchases can be made. "Before we can get too excited, we have to remember that the full Congress has to approve this measure. Even then, Cuba and the U.S. has to set up a phytosanitary protocol? Remember, we haven't shipped there for 40 years," Tracy said.
"But we think the U.S. has a good product, that we can meet Cuba's wheat needs, and that they will buy from us."
"We have obviously got to see the details to the compromise, but what we have heard so far is a watershed event," Tracy said.