The National Corn Growers Association today announced support of H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act. This bill, introduced by U.S. House of Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Rep. Jerry Moran (R-KS), will expand one-way trade and lift current travel restrictions with Cuba. Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) are also sponsoring the bill.

“This legislation will increase one-way agricultural trade from the U.S. to Cuba,” says NCGA First Vice President Bart Schott, a grower from Kulm, ND. “We currently export food to Cuba and these changes will level the playing field for American farmers. It is important to note, though, that it does not eliminate the embargo itself.”

H.R. 4645 provides an opportunity not only to preserve current U.S. sales of corn to Cuba, but also to increase demand for distillers dried grains and other corn value-added products such as poultry. According to the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, Cuba was the tenth largest export market for U.S. corn during the 2008-2009 marketing year.

Steve Yoder, chairman of the Joint Trade Policy A-Team, from Dalhart, TX, said, “There are just unnecessary restrictions on food shipments to Cuba.”

Presently, cash payments from Cuba are required before food leaves the U.S. port, instead of allowing for payment prior to delivery. Other countries selling agricultural goods to Cuba do not have this same type of restriction, creating a disadvantage for U.S. corn farmers. The “direct banking” provision only allows the Cuban buyer to make payment through a third-country bank outside of the United States. This adds yet another additional cost to each transaction involving the sale of our farmers’ products.

The bill also lifts travel restrictions to Cuba, an important step towards increasing the demand for U.S. agricultural exports. Without travel, demand for value-added agricultural products will not be as significant.