Kansas Wheat Farmer, Ag Leaders Share Desire to Open Up Trade with Cuba

Posted March 3, 2016

Agriculture leaders representing America’s grain farmers and ag equipment manufacturers expressed their passion for overcoming obstacles to restore agricultural trade with Cuba during a U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) event at Commodity Classic. Ron Suppes, a wheat farmer from Dighton, Kan., and past chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates, spoke on behalf of Kansas wheat farmers at the event.

“Trade between Cuba and the U.S. is a win-win situation primarily because of the close proximity to one another,” said Suppes. “Fifty years is a long time. It is time to drop the embargo.”

USACC members also spoke about the need to lift barriers with Cuba that will allow more U.S. commodities and other agricultural products to be imported by Cuba.

“When someone talks about export opportunities, our ears perk up. We don’t want to let them pass us by,” said Brett Blankenship, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers. “The administration has done what they can. The ball is in Congress. That’s why we are proud to be part of this collation to end the embargo. We all need to work together to ease trade restrictions.”

Cuba is a logical market for U.S. food and agriculture exports with 11 million consuming citizens only 90 miles off the coast of the United States. Normalizing trade relations between the United States and Cuba will enhance Cuban citizens’ access to affordable food while providing the U.S. farm and business community with new market access opportunities.  Liberalized trade will drive growth in both countries and allow the U.S. farmers, ranchers and food companies to efficiently address Cuban citizens’ food security needs.

“Over the years, I have been able to visit domestic customers as well as international customers.  I have been to a lot of countries, including Cuba,” said Suppes. “The take-home from all these conversations is that ‘people are people.’ The number one concern is family; then comes religion, and then food and shelter.  Politics are not usually toward the top of the list.”

Cuba, which does not grow wheat commercially, is the largest wheat market in the Caribbean, purchasing most of its wheat from the European Union and Canada. This is in sharp contrast to many other markets in the Caribbean region, where U.S. wheat farmers enjoy a much larger market share. It has been estimated that American farmers could obtain up to 80% of the market share under normalized trade.

The USACC seeks to advance trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba by re-establishing Cuba as a market for U.S. food and agriculture exports. The USACC believes that normalizing trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba will provide the U.S. farm and business community with new market access opportunities, drive enhanced growth in both countries and allow U.S. farmers, ranchers and food companies to efficiently address Cuban citizen’s food security needs. Under current sanctions, U.S. food and agriculture companies can legally export to Cuba, but financing and trade restrictions limit their ability to serve the market competitively. The USACC ultimately seeks to end the embargo and allow for open trade and investment. To learn more about the USACC, please visit www.usagcoalition.com.