March 12,2009

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Dan Virkstis (202) 224-2515

Finance Chairman, Senate Colleagues Address Treasury Rule On U.S. Exports to Cuba

Baucus notes Treasury Secretary’s early commitment to heed Congressional intent

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) expressed concern in a letter sent late yesterday to Treasury Secretary Geithner regarding a notice issued by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) that will continue to severely inhibit sales of U.S. products to Cuba by affecting the treatment of cash-based transactions involving U.S. agricultural exports.    

Baucus was joined on the letter by Senator Richard Lugar (R-ID), Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Senator Kit Bond (R-MS), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD). The OFAC notice is consistent with a February 2005 Treasury rule on this issue, but contrary to what Congress intended in provisions passed last week as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009.

“I’m dismayed that the spirit and intent of the law has been disregarded by Treasury, but I fully expect that Secretary Geithner will revisit this issue to get U.S.-Cuba relations back on track and get our Cuba policy right for America’s farmers and ranchers,” Baucus said. “In these difficult economic times we have an opportunity in Cuba as a growing and loyal trading partner with the U.S. I’ve worked to build ties and open Cuba to U.S. products, including world-class Montana wheat and peas, and I will continue to press Treasury on this until the issue gets resolved.”

Baucus helped introduce legislation two years ago that would make it easier for U.S. farmers and ranchers to sell their high-quality products to Cuba by easing restrictions on travel to and payment from Cuba. On December 11, 2007, Baucus held a hearing on the “Promoting American Agricultural and Medical Exports to Cuba Act of 2007,” and will work with colleagues in the Senate to move a similar bill forward this year.

An independent International Trade Commission study commissioned by Baucus found that removing U.S. export restrictions would increase the annual U.S. share of Cuba’s agriculture imports to as much as nearly 70 percent, representing an annual boost of over $300 million in U.S. agriculture sales.