Opinion Editorial MARION BERRY United States Representative First District, Arkansas

CUBA: First Travel Now Trade

Recently, President Obama lifted the travel and remittance restrictions for Cuban-American families to Cuba. It is a welcome change, but still only a first step in reversing a misguided policy that has hampered agricultural trade since 1962.  Our next action must be to lift the payment limits faced by farmers when trading with the Cuban market. While this action would not lift the entire trade embargo, its value would be immeasurable to not just the Cuban people, but to Mid-South farm families.

Because of this flawed policy, I introduced the Agricultural Export Facilitation Act with Republican Jerry Moran of Kansas.  This bill would amend the current law and allow for agricultural credit sales to purchasers in Cuba. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates the U.S. embargo of Cuba costs the economy $1.2 billion a year in lost sales and exports.

On both trips I have taken to the nation, Cuba’s leaders expressed to me again and again their interest in purchasing products we have in abundance right here in the Mid-South, commodities like rice and poultry.  These leaders know we are able to deliver high-quality products to them cheaper and faster.  By switching from European suppliers of food and grain to American sources, Cuba stands to save between 15 to 20 percent of its current import costs, which The New York Times estimates to be approximately one billion dollars.

For nearly 50 years, the Cold War, isolationist policies the United States has implemented toward Cuba in an attempt to coerce democracy has not worked.  By striking down trade and travel barriers with Cuba, our country will promote the values of personal freedom, representative democracy, and open-market capitalism to Cuba.  By allowing Cuba to purchase goods on credit, it makes it easier and cheaper to purchase American agricultural products.  Easing these outdated trade restrictions is a win-win for both of our countries.

Marion Berry of Gillett represents Arkansas’ 1st Congressional District and is a member of the House Appropriations and Budget Committees.