The American Soybean Association (ASA) testified today before the House Committee on Agriculture on normalizing trade and travel between the U.S. and Cuba. ASA strongly supports HR 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which would eliminate financing and travel restrictions affecting trade with Cuba, and is consistent with the Administration’s goal to double exports in the next five years.”U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba have cost U.S. farmers and businesses billions of dollars in exports to the Cuban market,” said ASA Board member Scott Fritz, a soybean producer from Winamac, Ind. “In a time of economic downturn, we can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch our competitors continue to supply a market where we have a natural advantage.”HR 4645 would eliminate the need to go through banks in other countries to conduct agricultural trades and the accompanying fees those banks charge. The bill would also require agricultural exports to Cuba to meet the same payment requirements as exports to other countries, which means payment would be required when the title of the shipment changes hands, not in advance. Finally, the bill would allow U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba, reducing the bureaucratic red tape currently required for individuals to travel to Cuba to facilitate new agriculture sales.In 2008, there were more than $134 million worth of soy products exported to Cuba. If current policies that require third country banks, cash advance payments and limits on travel were lifted, these exports would be expected to increase.”If the travel ban is eliminated, the number of U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba annually would increase to between 500,000 and 1 million,” Fritz said. “This growth in travel to Cuba would bring in more hard currency, enabling the Cuban state-trading agency to buy more U.S. agricultural products. Ending the travel ban would also benefit the U.S. economy by creating much-needed American jobs in the tourism and airline industries.”ASA opposes restrictions on exports of U.S. agricultural commodities for national security or foreign policy reasons that are not supported by all other major world producers and exporters. ASA also supports the country’s eligibility for use industry-generated national checkoff funds, USDA Foreign Market Development funds, or USDA Market Access Program allocations for market research and promotion activities in Cuba.ASA’s complete testimony is available here.