by Ken Root
Selling more U.S. Agricultural Products to Cuba took an incremental step this week. The soybean industry is ready to begin active promotion in hopes of expanding the market for American beans.
There has been a lot of splash and flash about President Obama’s visit to Cuba but the real work still lies ahead according to the American Soybean Association.
USDA announced this week farmers may soon be able to use federal checkoff funds for marketing, promotion and research in Cuba.
It’s a small step, but an important one, according to ASA spokesperson Patrick Delaney. He says allowing checkoff funds to be used in Cuba is a sign of progress…tape
“Any bricks in the wall, any incremental victories like this are a sign of progress in Cuba. I think what is important to remember though is we’re a long way from business as usual in Cuba. That’s why we as the American Soybean Association are absolutely in favor of removing the embargo,” Delaney says.
Delaney says removing the embargo will allow direct bank-to-bank relations needed to enable sales that U.S. soy products have lost in Cuba…tape
“I think you have seen year after year we’ve lost sales to our South American counter-parts. We’ve lost the Soybean oil market in Cuba almost entirely as a direct result of the embargo. We want that embargo gone and this is more of an incremental step. It enables as an industry to look at that market and conduct the same market expansion and market development opportunities and activities we do in other markets around the world,” Delaney says.
While visiting Cuba this week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that farm groups will be able to use 22 research and promotion programs and 18 marketing order programs to boost Ag sales in Cuba.
The decision is seen as a turnaround for USDA, which argued for years that federal law effectively barred use of the farmer-generated funds in Cuba.
Congress has a partisan split over ending the embargo on Cuba but agricultural states, regardless of political affiliation have tried to open trade for over twenty years.
Public Opinion has turned favorable for ending the embargo but it may be 2017 before many sanctions are dropped.
However, one expert in commodity promotion and marketing says use of the money may now help U.S. agriculture prepare for the day when the more than five decades old trade embargo finally ends.