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Reps. Johnson, Halvorson help push Cuba ag sales bill to House floor

July 1, 2010

A big win for Illinois agriculture..

Illinois’ two U.S. House Agriculture Committee members voted in the majority Wednesday to push IFB-backed H.R. 4645 to a possible July vote in the House.

The Cuba travel and ag sales bill was reported successfully out of the ag committee on a 25-20 vote.    Republican Congressman Tim Johnson cosponsored the bill and voted against several GOP-supported amendments to either water down or kill the bill.

Over the past several months, IFB worked with other ag groups to win the support of 11th District Democrat Debbie Halvorson of Crete, who like Johnson, delivered for Illinois farmers Wednesday in committee. 

The bill would ease sales of U.S. farm commodities to Cuba by eliminating the five-year old requirement that Cuba’s cash purchases of U.S food go through third country banks.   Economists estimate the Cuban market could be worth $1.2 billion per year.

U.S. agriculture exports to Cuba have increased and declined over the years, but have averaged roughly $320 million per year since 2000.  The major reason for the fluctuations is that the U.S. is not viewed by Cuba as a reliable supplier because of sales restrictions and the arbitrary actions of the U.S. government to further limit those sales.       

In addition to generating more sales of Illinois corn, soybeans, pork and wheat,  H.R. 4645 will grant Americans the freedom to travel to Cuba.

Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson put out a news release following the committee vote:

 “I am proud to say that today, the House Agriculture Committee took a courageous vote to end the short-sighted and failed policy that limits American agriculture’s access to the Cuban market.” Chairman Peterson said. “An unprecedented coalition of agriculture, business, religious and social organizations have endorsed H.R. 4645, and today’s vote demonstrates that Congress is ready to change our nation’s approach on this issue.”

“This legislation is the right policy at the right time,” Chairman Peterson said. “We have tried to isolate Cuba for more than fifty
years, and it has not worked. As it has in other countries, perhaps increasing trade with Cuba will encourage democratic progress.”

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