The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Senate Appropriations OKs direct cash transfers with Cuba

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson on Thursday praised a Senate Appropriations Committee vote to allow direct cash transfers between U.S. and Cuban financial institutions. The vote was 20 to 10, NFU said.

“NFU is encouraged that the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the amendment that would allow U.S. and Cuban financial institutions to directly transfer payments to each other,” Johnson said.

Currently those payments must be routed through a financial institution in another country, leading to additional fees and complications, he said. Johnson noted that the United States has exported $4 billion in agricultural goods to Cuba since 2000, when agricultural sales to Cuba were allowed for the first time since the imposition on the U.S. embargo on trade that was imposed after the 1959 Cuban revolution. Anti-Castro Cuban Americans have opposed the direct transfers, saying that it would amount to U.S. banks making loans to prop up the Communist government.

“At a time of high unemployment and stagnant economic growth, allowing direct cash transfers between the U.S. and Cuba provides a unique opportunity to create jobs and stimulate economic development in rural America," Johnson said.

The legislation was introduced by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kans., who said it would fuel economic growth and enable agricultural producers to compete on a level playing field.

“Current U.S. trade policies hurt American farmers and ranchers by making it more expensive for Cuba to purchase agriculture products from the United States,” Moran said in a news release. “This means Cuba is buying more of its food from countries such as Vietnam and China. The change is an important step to increase American export sales and support thousands of American jobs without increasing the debt.”