State ag groups sound off on Trump’s Cuba policy

Agricultural groups in Illinois are voicing their opposition to President Donald Trump’s decision to limit trade with Cuba, arguing that it will hinder their ability to sell food to people that need it and have a negative impact on agricultural trade opportunities in the state.

The presidents of the Illinois Beef Association (IBA), Illinois Corn Growers Association, Illinois Pork Producers Association and Illinois Soybean Growers released a joint statement saying Cuba is “an important market for Illinois commodities and the livestock who consume Illinois-grown products.”

Reid Blossom, vice president of the beef association, said any decision in Washington to shrink a potential market for U.S. beef is a big concern for his members. The better option for Illinois farmers is having free and open market access internationally, he said.

“Given a level playing field in the absence of trade barriers, beef producers in this country and Illinois specifically can absolutely compete on the world stage,” Blossom said.

Cuba imports 80 percent of its food, according to the Americas Society and Council of the Americas (ASCOA). During a U.S. House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, Republican Ted Poe of Texas said lifting the embargo on Cuba would produce $4.3 billion in agricultural exports and add approximately 6,000 jobs in the United States, according to ASCOA.

Blossom said he isn’t sure how much of an economic hit Illinois would experience now that Trump has decided to limit trade with Cuba.

“We’re still in the early efforts of normalizing trade relations with Cuba, so we don’t have a clear picture of what that relationship could mean to beef producers here in Illinois because it’s just so young,” Blossom said.

The group’s statement also says Illinois farmers are struggling with commodity prices and farm profitability, which makes export market access to places like Cuba important.

“A developing economy like Cuba that could really bloom in the tourism trade is very appealing thing to us,” Blossom said.

IBA representatives have been in Cuba for the past two years and Trump’s decision will not affect the group’s strategy to build international market access for U.S. beef, Blossom said.

“Our intent with those trips goes back to a strategy that is very important to the U.S. beef industry and cattle producers here in Illinois, and that’s to generate favorable trade relationships between our nations,” Blossom said.

–Illinois News Network

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