WASHINGTON, March 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Nearly 30 organizations called on Congress to remove the barriers to agriculture exports posed by a new U.S. Treasury Department rule that went into effect on Thursday restricting the financial terms of cash sales for agricultural products being exported to Cuba. The rule, issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), threatens to disrupt exports to Cuba, undermine the U.S. agriculture community's reputation as a reliable provider of quality products and disregards contract sanctity. "OFAC's February 2005 ruling not only ignores the congressional intent of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSREEA), it discounts the fact that export markets are important to the future of U.S. agriculture," remarked Bill Reinsch, co-chairman of USA Engage. "It is critical to U.S. agricultural trade that this issue be resolved expeditiously in a manner that does not jeopardize current or future exports to Cuba," continued Reinsch. Trade and agriculture groups are calling on Congress because OFAC's rule providing a new definition of the term "payment of cash in advance" took effect on Thursday. The original definition had been adhered to since the law's implementation in 2001. Agriculture and trade groups maintain that this reinterpretation jeopardizes the more than $250 million in sales currently under contract, as well as future sales, worth hundreds of millions of dollars to U.S. farmers, ranchers, exporters and others. OFAC's ruling has led to the introduction of legislation in both the House and Senate aimed at addressing the issue. "We applaud members of both the House and Senate who understand the great importance of this issue to the agriculture community and have introduced legislation to rectify the situation. We will continue to work closely with Congress to resolve this issue," said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. Since the passage of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSREEA), nearly $1 billion in agricultural commodities and food products have been exported to Cuba. In 2004, Cuba ranked the 25th largest market for U.S. agriculture, up from 226th when TSREEA took effect. Groups calling on Congress to seek relief from the OFAC ruling include Ag BioTech, Inc., AlaCaribe Initiative Inc., Alamar Associates, American Farm Bureau Federation, Crowley Liner Services, Cuba Trade Coalition, FCStone, Kaehler Homedale Farm Enterprise, Louis Dreyfus Corporation, Maybank Shipping Company, Inc., Miller Farm Exports/Miller Medical Exports, Molimar Export Consultants, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Chicken Council, National Grain and Feed Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Turkey Federation, North American Export Grain Association, Sunlight Foods, Inc., USA*Engage, USA Rice Federation, U.S. Dairy Export Council, US Rice Producers Association, US Wheat Associates, Vista Trade Group, Wheat Export Trade Education Committee, Wide West Exports.
SOURCE American Farm Bureau Federation