The House of Representatives can now take up H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, after the House Agriculture Committee voted to move the bill to the full House for action.
Congressman Jerry Moran, R-Kan., a co-sponsor of the bill, says a main agriculture issue is trying to correct some rules and regulations in the nation's policy for agricultural sales to Cuba. Moran has been trying to address the issue for many years first offering amendments back in 2000 trying to open the Cuban markets to American agriculture.
"The Treasury Department created rules and regulations that made it more expensive for Cubans to buy from us and more difficult for Americans to sell to Cuba," Moran said. "This legislation corrects those problems. It deals mostly with the idea of cash up front, which remains. The Cubans still have to pay for their agricultural purchases up front but without the third party financing and the timing of those payments and eliminates some of the bureaucratic regulations that have made it very difficult to make those sales occur. It also gives the opportunity for agricultural marketing folks to go to Cuba to promote agricultural sales and for Cuban trade representatives to come to the United States, visit farms, ranches and agribusinesses and again promote that sale for cash of agricultural commodities."
In the Agriculture Committee the lifting of travel restrictions between the two countries was a point of controversy. Moran looks at that portion of the bill in a different way than some of his colleagues.
"This is giving Americans the freedom to make the choice of where to travel," Moran said. "It's also very hypocritical that we allow Americans to travel to China, but we have not allowed Americans to travel to Cuba. I don't understand the distinction; clearly China is a much greater threat, a much bigger country. Also in regard to trade, people who often oppose the Cuba sale of agricultural commodities have been members of Congress who have supported trade with China so there is a huge double standard when it comes to this small country off our coast."
Nearly 150 U.S. organizations have voiced their strong support for this bill. Moran expects the measure to go before the House and Senate sometime this year.