Bennet Joins Effort to Expand Agricultural Exports to Cuba

Supports American Farmers and Jobs

Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet cosponsored a bipartisan bill to help American farmers and ranchers and support jobs in Colorado and across the country by lifting restrictions on private financing for U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba.

Last month, Bennet travelled to Cuba to discuss future opportunities for U.S.-Cuban cooperation on a range of topics, including foreign trade. The biggest barrier for Colorado producers as they seek access to Cuba-a market with high demand for Coloradan exports such as beef, dairy, and wheat-is a prohibition on providing private credit for those exports.

After his trip, Bennet joined efforts to advance the Agricultural Export Expansion Act of 2017, which would generate more credit for the sale of U.S. agricultural commodities to Cuba.

"Agriculture is Colorado's third largest industry, but because of existing restrictions it is missing out on opportunities in the Cuban market," Bennet said. "This common-sense bill would create new opportunities for our communities - from ranchers on the Western Slope to potato growers in the San Luis Valley. Colorado has a tremendous amount to gain from reestablishing the U.S.-Cuban relationship."

In January 2016, the previous administration loosened export restrictions to allow U.S. companies to sell certain non-agricultural products to Cuba on credit. Due to statutory restrictions on U.S. farm exports, however, Cuban purchases must either be financed with cash up front or with credit provided by a third-country bank. This renders American farm goods less competitive since producers and businesses in other countries can offer better, more efficient terms of financing by directly extending credit to Cuban buyers. The status quo of U.S.-Cuba agricultural trade financing effectively blocks many Colorado and U.S. producers from selling their farm goods into the Cuban market. The shift in U.S. policy included in this legislation would change the rules of financing agricultural exports to Cuba and allow American farmers and ranchers to compete for the island's business on a level playing field.

This bill builds on Bennet's previous efforts to enhance the relationship between Cuba and Colorado. Partnering with Engage Cuba last August, Bennet announced the launch of a statewide council that would work to open trade opportunities to Cuba and end the travel ban. He also cosponsored two bills, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act and the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act, that would eliminate travel restrictions and allow businesses to work directly with Cubans to finance and ship purchases of American-made products.

Bennet joined U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tom Udall (D-NM), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) in cosponsoring the bill.

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill as an amendment to a financial services spending bill last year, as well as in July 2015.