By JACK WEATHERLY
Several measures have been submitted to Congress in the past year that would restore trade with Cuba after 55 years of embargo after Fidel Castro led a communist overthrow of the government.
Whichever, if any, that eventually becomes law would have an effect on the Magnolia State. The Mississippi Development Authority has set an Oct. 20 seminar on doing business with Cuba, to be followed by a trip to that nation in the spring.
House Resolution 3637 would reopen trade with Cuba through private channels in the island nation 90 miles off the tip of Florida.
Another, House Resolution 3238, sponsored by Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., would lift the embargo altogether.
Rebecca Alery, spokeswoman for Emmer, said in an email that there is limited time for any legislation to move through Congress this year,
Mississippi exported $10.9 billion in goods and services in 2015, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. That is 10 percent of the gross state product of $109 billion for that year.
Poultry parts totaling $130 million was exported in 2015. The total value of poultry pdroduced in Mississippi in that year amounted to $3.2 billion. The value of exported cotton, excluding seeds, was $192.6 million.
In 2015,Mississippi exported $545,291 worth of goods, $535,085 for poultry and $10,206 for aircraft parts, according to the MDA.
Dr.Luis Ribera of Texas A&M University said in an interview that $73,600 in exports creates one U.S. job.
Currently, U.S. exports to Cuba can only be paid in cash in advance or must be financed by third country financial institutions.
One of the witnesses who appeared before the House committee, Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates, said that as long as the Castros (former leader Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, is president) are in control of the government, U.S. dollars will flow into their pockets.
The United States has kept trade to a minimum over the decades in opposition to the Cuban government’s oppressive regime. The Trade Sanction Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 does allow certain commodities and medical supplies under a humanitarian provision.
There is the issue of the fact that the Castro government seized American businesses and property, Claver-Carone said.
Toward the end of the hearing, Crawford asked Claver-Carone if he was will to work to refine the language to find a solution. Claver-Carone said he was open to that.
Mark Isbell, an Arkansas rice farmer representing USA Rice, said that dealing with the Cuba might be “less than ideal,” but that he thinks “there are ways that we can influence change without taking out the American farmer.”
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said that “things are changing” in Cuba, and urged Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, to move quickly with the legislation.