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Agriculture

Moran Bucks Fellow GOP Senators, Backs Free Trade With Cuba

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President Obama’s move to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba has drawn mixed reactions for Republicans in congress, but Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran sees a big opportunity for farmers.

Cuba imports a lot of wheat, but none of comes from the United States. Food’s not part of the trade embargo, but U.S. payment restrictions make Cuban exports impractical.

That’s costly to farmers. A Texas A&M study figures that free trade and travel with Cuba would boost the U.S. economy by more than a billion dollars, and create thousands of jobs.

Moran says lifting payment restrictions would further US economic, and political goals.

“In my view it’s a benefit to farmers and ranchers around the country, and especially here in Kansas,” says Moran. “But, it’s also something that I think can help change the nature of the opportunities that Cubans have to live in a freer society.” 

Moran says that a cheaper, more reliable food supply will give Cuban’s more time to concentrate on changing their own government. He favors full diplomatic ties with Cuba. Kan., Senior Senator Pat Roberts has a different opinion.

“I didn’t like embargoes,” says Roberts. “I didn’t like the Russian embargo. I don’t like the embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba. The problem is, what the President did, he just said he wants to normalize relations.  This is still a communist country.”

The big fight in congress will be over lifting the half century long economic embargo of Cuba. Moran will be squarely on the side of ending a policy that he says has proven ineffective, and one that he says is inconsistent with the rest of US foreign policy.

“China is a much greater economic threat to the United States that Cuba is or ever will be,” asserts Moran. “So there really is a double standard when we say that we’ll trade with China, but we won’t trade with Cuba.  It lacks common sense.”

Lifting the economic embargo is likely to be contentious. “Nothing about Cuba,” Moran says, “has ever been easy.” 

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