The House Agriculture Committee’s approval of the Cuba trade bill will help increase agriculture exports to that island nation and help make U.S. agricultural goods the products of choice in the Cuban marketplace, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“This vote takes us one step closer to placing American-grown food on the tables of the Cuban people,” said Bob Stallman, AFBF president. “We are hopeful the House will expedite consideration of this bill so we can take advantage of our competitive position in the Cuban market.”

Earlier, Stallman expressed AFBF’s strong support for H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, sponsored by Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, House Agriculture Committee Chairman, and Kansas Rep. Jerry Moran. The bill eliminates many restrictions on exports of U.S. agricultural commodities to Cuba, as well as modifies other U.S. policies that hinder U.S. exports to Cuba.

The bill clarifies the definition of “cash payment in advance” and eliminates the need for Cuba to go through a third-country bank to pay for a U.S. product. Cuba would be allowed to directly wire payments to U.S. banks. The legislation also removes all travel restrictions to Cuba.

“Lifting all travel restrictions will have a direct impact on U.S. agricultural sales,” Stallman wrote. “Increased travel to Cuba will boost food demand in the country, and coupled with other reforms, the U.S. industry will meet increased food needs. Increased travel will also bring much needed funds to purchase U.S. commodities, given that cash will remain the only means of payment.”

Stallman said U.S. agricultural 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,” Stallman said. “With timely congressional action, we expect this to soon change for the better.”