U.S. House May Pass Cuba Export Bill in April, Peterson SaysMarch 31, 2010, 7:37 AM EDT
By Jonathan J. Levin
March 31 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. House of Representatives may pass a bill next month that would cut restrictions on agricultural exports to Cuba and lift a ban on travel to the island, the measure’s sponsor said.
Congressman Collin Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said he needs backing from one more lawmaker to assure the panel will pass the legislation. He expects to secure that pledge after Congress’s Easter recess, and for the measure to get approval by the full House.
“Cuba used to be one of our big markets,” Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat, said in a telephone interview yesterday. The bill “would help us get those markets back.”
The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates the U.S. could supply as much as two-thirds of Cuba’s agricultural imports, up from the current 30 percent, if restrictions are eased, Peterson said in a committee hearing this month. The bill would end a requirement that payments from Cuba to U.S. farmers go through a bank located in a third country and be made all in cash, steps that make trade more difficult.
The U.S. exported $528.5 million in food and agricultural products to Cuba in 2009, according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.
Peterson’s bill, known as the “Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act,” is the latest House legislation seeking to end a 47-year prohibition on Americans traveling to Cuba. The “Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act,” sponsored by William Delahunt, Democrat from Massachusetts, would ease travel restrictions without changing rules about agricultural exports.
Versions of both bills are under consideration in the Senate.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to get the agriculture changes by themselves,” Peterson said. “There’s a lot of support for lifting the travel ban, and if you put that together with the agriculture, I think we have enough votes to get it through the House.”
The bill may face more opposition in the Senate, he said.