Press Release

Ag Leaders Share Insights, Desire to Open Up Trade with Cuba

March 03, 2016


U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba

News Release


Ag Leaders Share Insights, Desire to Open Up Trade with Cuba


New Orleans- March 3, 2016- Agriculture leaders representing America’s grain farmers and ag equipment manufacturers expressed their passion for overcoming obstacles to restore agricultural trade with Cuba during a U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) event at Commodity Classic.


“Farmers are interested in building new areas for demand and Cuba is a great example,” said Tom Sleight, president and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council. “Trade creates a more open relationship. It’s time for us to address this issue because our competition is heating up.”


As senior vice president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers- USACC’s newest member- Charlie O’Brien, said, “Our members are extremely interested in Cuba. We feel that our products can improve agricultural production and conditions for the people of Cuba through technology like precision agriculture. We’re interested in what is down the line.”


“We not only need to lower trade barriers, but we have to have information transfer plans in front of us. We need to prepare for that moment,” said Wayne Cleveland, executive director of the Texas Grain Sorghum Producers Association.


USACC members also spoke about the need to lift barriers with Cuba that will allow more U.S. commodities and other agricultural products to be imported by Cuba.


American Soybean Association director Joel Schreurs said, “We are committed to removing barriers with Cuba. Congress has to act to reduce the barriers that allow access to credit. Being less than 100 miles off our coast, Cuba should be a fantastic opportunity for us.”


“When someone talks about export opportunities, our ears perk up. We don’t want to let them pass us by,” said Brett Blankenship, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers. “Cuba is the biggest market in the Caribbean for wheat and it’s the closest. The administration has done what they can. The ball is in Congress. That’s why we are proud to be part of this collation to end the embargo. We all need to work together to ease trade restrictions.”


Another wheat farmer, Ron Suppes, who is past chairman of the U.S. Wheat Associates, added, “Fifty years is long enough. Kansas farmers are proud of what they do and they want to share with the people of Cuba knowledge about using our product.”


USACC co-chair Paul Johnson stated, “Our message to the administration and Congress is simple- let us compete. This not only helps U.S. ag producers but also the Cuban people.”


Speaking for the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Brenda Verslues, said, “We look for opportunities to make things happen. We have a lot to learn from Cuban people.”


The USACC seeks to advance trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba by re-establishing Cuba as a market for U.S. food and agriculture exports. The USACC believes that normalizing trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba will provide the U.S. farm and business community with new market access opportunities, drive enhanced growth in both countries and allow U.S. farmers, ranchers and food companies to efficiently address Cuban citizen’s food security needs. Under current sanctions, U.S. food and agriculture companies can legally export to Cuba, but financing and trade restrictions limit their ability to serve the market competitively. The USACC ultimately seeks to end the embargo and allow for open trade and investment.

USACC is proud to partner with Engage Cuba, the leading coalition of private companies and organizations working to end the travel and trade embargo on Cuba. For a list of non-agricultural organizations that support a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba, see 


For additional information and photos, please contact:

Amy Roady, Illinois Soybean Growers communications director,, 618 535-7937
Paul Johnson, USACC, co-chair,, 773 814-2493