Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lifting Embargo Would Benefit Arkansas

Recently, I traveled to Cuba with House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro and a bipartisan Congressional Delegation to continue the dialogue of increasing trade with Cuba. While I was there, I met with some of the country's top officials and had a very promising discussion about current and future trade policies with Cuba.

One of the Cuba's top imports is long-grain rice. Currently, Cuba consumes 770,000 metric tons of rice a year but only 100,000 metric tons are imported from the United States. Because Arkansas is the leading producer of rice in the United States, our state could benefit from an increased demand of rice from Cuba.

During my trip, Cuban officials told us they would like to increase rice imports from the U.S. and buy at least 400,000 metric tons annually, much of which would come from our state. Right now most of Cuba's rice imports come from countries like Vietnam and China, which have a delivery time of up to 45 days. By buying more rice from the U.S., which only has a delivery time of about a day and a half, both Cuba and Arkansas can benefit tremendously from this improved relationship.

Ending the current embargo will get the United States into the growing Cuban market, which will give Arkansas an unprecedented economic boost. With its location and safe, abundant food supply, the United States should be a natural choice to meet Cuba's food needs.

I believe that food should never be used as a political tool. Agriculture is the backbone of America, and I will continue to support efforts to open the Cuban markets to Arkansas agricultural products. This is simply a win-win for everyone involved.