As a soybean farmer and Illinois Soybean Growers board member who has visited Cuba, I’m very pleased that President Barack Obama recently took steps to open up trade with Cuba. This is an important moment in history, for both Cuba and for the United States. We will all benefit from this opportunity.
I am very hopeful that the recently announced changes will have a positive impact on increasing trade between our two countries.
I’m proud that our organization has been working on this issue for the past four years. We’ve been to Cuba four times, most recently in November. We’ve talked with the Cuban people and we’ve heard what’s important to them. While in Cuba we met with a wide variety of people from buyers to diplomats to everyday Cubans. Everyone is interested in improving diplomatic relations and trade relations with the United States. The U.S. embargo is on their mind every day because it affects their quality of life.
It’s not just about trade. It’s about people and their access to goods and services. Normalizing trade relations between the United States and Cuba will enhance Cuban citizens’ access to affordable food while providing the U.S. and Illinois farm and business community with new market access opportunities.
Perhaps the most valuable item of all the announced changes to make U.S. products more competitive is the ability to use U.S. banks for trade. We feel that opening up relations and easing credit is good for Illinois and Cuba. Over time, the United States and Illinois have seen a drop in soybean exports to Cuba. South America is trying to take our place.
In the last marketing year, Cuba imported more than 2 million bushels of whole U.S. soybeans and the equivalent of more than 6 million bushels of U.S. soybean meal. We hope to find new markets for using our soy in food for human consumption and for using more soybean meal for animal feed.
We’re optimistic about the future and thankful for the support on this issue.
By John Longley, QCOnline.com
January 6, 2015
John Longley of Aledo is a board member of the Illinois Soybean Growers.