Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Hearing on Opportunities and Challenges for Agriculture Trade with Cuba Remarks Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)

I commend the Chairman for holding this hearing to discuss new opportunities and challenges that await American agriculture in doing business in a country just 90 miles from our shore.  We have the chance before us to give Cuban citizens the ability to gain greater control over their own lives, while also expanding markets for American farmers to sell their products.

We know there will be some winners as part of any normalizing of trade with Cuba.  However, we must also temper our hopes and remember that Cuba’s economy is a shambles and its people are suffering -- as I have seen firsthand in my travels to Cuba.

None of us should expect an immediate commercial windfall for American agriculture.  But we do know that ending the embargo, a long outdated relic of the Cold War that the Cuban government has used as a phony excuse for its own failed policies, will create more efficient, less burdensome opportunities for Cubans to buy U.S. products.  Making our farm products more competitive with those coming from Canada and the European Union will expand choices for Cubans, while creating a new customer base for America's farmers.

We know that American agriculture has long served as an important bridge to help foster better understanding and the exchange of ideas with people of other nations.  The issue we are discussing today will do exactly that.  It will increase the amount of food on the plates of the Cuban people and it will enable them to buy American.

This move will let the Cuban people finally see that it is their own government, not the United States, that is to blame for the poverty and dysfunction and repression in their country.  I am thankful for the witnesses appearing here today and their views on how our agriculture sector can benefit from easing trade restrictions with Cuba.

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