04.21.15

Chairman Roberts Hears from Government, Agriculture Stakeholders on Agriculture Trade with Cuba

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today held a hearing on opportunities and challenges for agriculture trade with Cuba.

The hearing, titled “Opportunities and Challenges for Agriculture Trade with Cuba,” has two panels. For witness info, testimony, and to watch the hearing live, click here.

“At the beginning of this Congress, I was hopeful that trade would be one area where we could work across the aisle to find agreement. I am still hopeful that is the case,” Chairman Roberts said.

“The United States and Cuba have a long history full of contention and instability. There is no shortage of opinion from members of Congress about the relationship between our two countries, both present and future.

“This is not an issue that we are going to be able to fix overnight. It will take efforts in addition to bills in Congress, to truly normalize trade with Cuba… Foreign policy does not happen in a vacuum. We have to take a realistic approach and work out a step by step plan towards lifting the embargo. This is a goal that should include Congress.”

The following is Chairman Roberts’ opening statement as prepared for delivery:

Good morning. I call this meeting of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to order.

At the beginning of this Congress, I was hopeful that trade would be one area where we could work across the aisle to find agreement. I am still hopeful that is the case.

Tomorrow the Senate Finance Committee will mark up the Trade Promotion Authority bill that allows our negotiators to garner the best deal possible for American exporters.

TPA is good for agriculture, and I look forward to getting it passed.

International trade of American agriculture products is critical…critical to the nation’s economy and critical to our Kansas farmers and ranchers.

I have long fought to eliminate barriers to trade, and I believe that we should continue to work towards new market access opportunities for our agriculture products. And that’s what we’re here to talk about today.

The United States and Cuba have a long history full of contention and instability. There is no shortage of opinion from members of Congress about the relationship between our two countries, both present and future. 

Some are concerned about human rights, others about socioeconomic ideology. But those concerns are not what this committee will focus on this morning. Today we are here to discuss the role of agriculture – opportunities and challenges – in Cuba. 

For over fifty years, agriculture exports to the island have seen many ups and downs. Sometimes due to politics and sometimes due to Mother Nature and the tropical storms she brings.

This is not an issue that we are going to be able to fix overnight. It will take efforts in addition to bills in Congress to truly normalize trade with Cuba.

The decisions that are made regarding increased trade with Cuba must be made carefully.

Four months ago the President announced a major shift in U.S. policy towards Cuba.

It is my hope that in the future, the President will work with Congress to determine the best path forward.

Foreign policy does not happen in a vacuum. We have to take a realistic approach and work out a step by step plan towards lifting the embargo. This is a goal that should include Congress.

Today we will hear from an impressive panel of experts, from the regulators responsible for writing our policies toward Cuba, to the producers who seek to grow the market for their products.

I understand that, like myself, many of our witnesses here have traveled to Cuba to see first-hand what challenges and opportunities exist.

I look forward to hearing about what we might be able to achieve with more trade with Cuba. But we also need to hear about the difficulties that lie ahead.

If we want to be successful in creating a new system of engagement with Cuba, we are going to have to put in the work.

Agriculture has long been used as a tool - not a weapon - for peace and stability. It is my hope that Cuba will embrace the practices of free trade, enterprise and commerce, so that both countries will gain from increased relations.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba was launched. They have shared a statement and additional information in support of our work today, and I ask for unanimous consent that it be entered into the record.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.

With that, I recognize our Chairwoman emeritus, Senator Stabenow for any remarks.

-30-

Press Contact

Meghan Cline
202-224-2035