Tuesday, December 11, 2018

In the farm bill, a small step forward

Congress will soon vote on the 2018 Farm Bill, which authorizes agricultural and food assistance programs. The final version, released yesterday, includes an amendment by outgoing Senator Heitkamp of North Dakota, to end the prohibition on the use of the Department of Agriculture’s export promotion programs in Cuba. Her amendment passed the Senate unanimously after Senator Rubio threatened to remove it, but soon retreated and accepted it.
To my knowledge, Cuba was the only country where our Department of Agriculture was barred from promoting U.S. exports. By itself, this move will not add hundreds of millions to U.S. exports, but it is a sensible step forward and it will help. The text of the bill is here; Heitkamp’s amendment appears on page 130 and the explanation of its meaning is on page 614.
President Trump has plenty of grievances with Cuba, and some make sense. Hopefully he will remember how, as a businessman, he explored Cuba’s potential for his hotel/resort business, and see the country as a place where more U.S. economic engagement could benefit both peoples.

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