U.S. considers lifting Cuban trade embargo

SBy Andrew Williams

Daily O’Collegian
Oklahoma State University

sTILLWATER, Okla. (U-WIRE) – Agricultural leaders from across the United States met in Washington, D.C., Tuesday to discuss Cuba’s rise as an agricultural nation. Before the conference, agricultural leaders debated the U.S. embargo on Cuban goods, and suggested lifting sanctions governing trade between Cuba and the United States.

For the past 20 years, the United States has enforced a trade embargo on Cuban agricultural and technological imports, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Web site.

Over the past 10 years, Cuba has seen a tremendous increase in commodity production. The trade embargo being enforced on Cuba holds no political clout, according to the Web site. Cuba is now able to produce most of its own agricultural commodities.

“Every market is important, and the foreign trade market is a very large and influential factor in Oklahoma agriculture,” said Jim Reese, Oklahoma executive director for Farm Service Agency. “There has been a move not to use agricultural goods as a means of enforcing foreign policy, but in the case of Cuba, the embargo is long standing and agricultural trade is an issue.”

“There is no way to accurately predict the exact outcome or effect for Oklahoma agriculture given the lift of the Cuban trade embargo,” Reese said. “It is very important for all Oklahomans to be aware of what is going on in the world of international agricultural trade because, as a state, our livelihood depends on agricultural practices.”

Gerald Lage, professor of economics at Oklahoma State University, said, “Oklahomans will experience little economic effect from the trade embargo being lifted on Cuba. The only foreseeable change that could occur is the amount of bulk commodity shipped out of Oklahoma, such as wheat, could decrease.”

Local farmers aren’t worrying about a reduction in trade or exports if the embargo is lifted.

“The private land owners and small farmers will likely see no effect on their market,” Lage said.

Local farmer Burl Mitchell said, “I am aware of the trade embargo on Cuba but am not particularly worried about the implications.”

He said he uses his farm for forage production and does not see a diminishing market for hay or wheat in the near future.

Big businesses and agricultural farmers that supply commodities outside of the United States may see a decline in their market share, Lage said. Because of Cuba’s close proximity to the United States’ eastern border, there may be an opportunity for private farmers to open new outlets of trade, he said.