The U.S. House Agriculture Committee held a hearing yesterday to review the potential to open up U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba.

Located only 90 miles from the United States, Cuba relies on imports for most of its food needs, but current U.S. policies hinder American agricultural producers who want to sell their products in the country.

"Restrictions on agricultural trade with Cuba have failed to achieve their stated goal, and instead have hand-delivered an export market in our own backyard to the Brazilians, the Europeans, and our other competitors around the world," said Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) "It's time we ask ourselves why we have policies in place that simply do not work and that only harm U.S. interests."

In February, Peterson introduced the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act (H.R. 4645) in order to facilitate expanded U.S. agricultural trade with Cuba. This bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by more than 35 other members of Congress, including Reps Jerry Moran of Kansas, Rosa L. DeLauro of Connecticut, and Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri.

The written testimony provided by the witnesses is available on the ag committee Web site. A full transcript of the hearing will be posted there at a later date.

Participants at the hearing included, Panel I:
. Bob Stallman, president, American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D.C.
. Roger Johnson, president, National Farmers Union, Washington, D.C.

Panel II:
. Mike Wagner, rice producer and owner/operator of Twobrooks Farm, on behalf of U.S. Rice Producers Association and USA Rice
Federation, Sumner, Miss.

. Jerry McReynolds, wheat producer and president, National Association of Wheat Growers, Woodston, Kan.
. John Wilson, senior vice president of marketing & industry Affairs, Dairy Farmers of America, on behalf of National Milk
Producers Federation, Kansas City, Mo.
.  Barton Schott, corn producer and first vice president, National Corn Growers Association, Kulm, N.D.
. Scott Fritz, soybean producer and board member, American Soybean Association, Winamac, Ind.

Source: U.S. House Committee on Agriculture