The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) praised passage yesterday of the Travel Restriction Reform & Export Enhancement Act, H.R. 4645, by the House Agriculture Committee. H.R. 4645 is a bipartisan bill introduced by Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (Minnesota) and Representative Jerry Moran (Kansas) and co-sponsored by 61 other members of Congress. The bill passed the Committee by a vote of 25-20.
NMPF and USDEC lauded the House Committee’s action, saying it was a step to bolster the ongoing dairy industry recovery resulting from the catastrophic milk price situation faced by dairy farmers, which largely resulted from a recession-driven decline in export sales. Both NMPF and USDEC expressed deep appreciation towards the 25 Agriculture Committee who voted for H.R. 4645.
“The U.S. dairy industry firmly believes that it is critical that we work to expand opportunities for our dairy exports to allow dairy producers and their dairy manufacturing partners to grow and prosper,” says Tom Suber, president of USDEC. “Improving our ability to export to Cuba by doing away with many of the barriers the U.S. government has erected to us is a very important step in the right direction.”
The legislation returns “payment of cash in advance” policy to the commercial terms as intended by Congress, eliminates the need to route payments through third country banks and removes all restrictions on U.S. citizen travel to Cuba. Economists at Texas A&M University estimated the economic impact of the elimination of U.S. financial constraints on agricultural exports to Cuba and of allowing U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba would result in a growth of $50 million a year in additional dairy exports.
“We believe that these legislative changes represent a moderate position and a reasoned approach towards adjusting our current policies with Cuba in a way that would benefit both America’s dairy producers and Americans’ rights to travel freely,” says Jerry Kozak, president and chief executive officer of NMPF. “This legislation would help open up additional doors for U.S. dairy products at a time when rebuilding markets for U.S. milk is critical to the well-being of our dairy producer community.”
Yesterday’s vote was a first step on the road to full passage of the legislation. It must still be approved by the full House of Representatives and then considered by the Senate.