Cuba

October 6, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

Farm income is collapsing.  Livestock and grain prices are in the tank.  What to do now?  Of course, we have to persevere and ride this recession out. 

There are some common sense things that could help a little.  For 60 years, we have enforced some kind of trade embargo on Cuba.  In 2000, we took one step authorizing the sale of food and medical supplies to Cuba.  The problem has been that we still require Cuba to pay cash in advance of shipment.  No credit allowed.  It’s not surprising that under such restrictions there is not much trade.  Cuba needs credit to finance imports. 

President Obama has opened the door to normal relations with Cuba, and has nominated an individual to be our Ambassador, but we are not there yet.  Secretary Vilsack has designated a USDA Representative to work in Cuba to facilitate trade.  However, without legislation to lift the financing restrictions, our export numbers are not going to be very impressive. 

The potential size of the Cuban market could be 1.2 billion dollars per year, according to Dr. Luis Ribera, economist at Texas A&M University. 

Here is an example of an obvious opportunity.  Today, Cuba imports 300 million dollars a year of rice from Vietnam.  That rice travels 16,000 miles.  Cuba is 90 miles from our shore.  We have an obvious advantage. 

Today, Cuba imports 80 percent of their food.  Countries all over the world have normal trade relations with Cuba selling them food – European Union, Canada, Brazil, China, on and on.  We have shut ourselves out of this market. 

All of these years, we have been trying to punish Cuba for being an oppressive dictatorship.  It has not worked. 

Let’s try engagement and interaction.  Open up travel and trade.  We have normal relations with countries all over the world and many of them are not very democratic. 

One final suggestion is that we need to have the same immigration rules for Cuba that we have for Mexico and countries all over the world.  It’s not the case today.  If they take a boat, a raft from Cuba to Florida, we don’t send them back.  They are here to stay.  Not surprising, there is a new surge of Cubans coming here.  They fear that with normal relations, the door will be closed.  They are right. 

 If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.