May 20,2009

Baucus Introduces Bill to Promote Agricultural Exports to Cuba, Ease Travel Ban

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), along with 15 other Democratic and Republican Senators, today introduced a bill easing U.S. trade and travel restrictions to Cuba. The bill, which was co-sponsored by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), Senator Kit Bond (R-MO), Senator Tim Johnson (D- SD), Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), helps U.S. farmers and ranchers export their products to Cuba by allowing timely and direct cash payments for agricultural goods. The bill also requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promote U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba. Additionally, the bill lifts the current travel ban, allowing U.S. citizens and legal residents to travel to Cuba, and it eases restrictions on exports of medicines and medical devices.

“It’s time for us to face the facts regarding Cuba,” Baucus said. “It’s a fact that Cuba is one of our closest export markets. It’s a fact that our current trade and travel sanctions aren’t working. And it’s a fact that our farmers and ranchers in Montana – and across the United States – need help selling their high quality products in Cuba. This bill faces the facts, and it opens the Cuban market to world class American agricultural goods.”

Recent research prepared by staff at the independent International Trade Commission indicates that removing U.S. export restrictions could increase the annual U.S. share of Cuba's agriculture imports to nearly 65 percent, representing an annual boost of over $450 million in U.S. agriculture sales.

Baucus introduced similar legislation in the 110th Congress to ease restrictions on travel to and trade with Cuba. A summary of the legislation introduced today follows.