Trade Envoy Seeks to Calm Worries about Future Cuban Imports

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VetterFederal officials will take action to protect farmers and consumers if the trade embargo on Cuban imports is lifted, according to a U.S. trade official.

In comments at the American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in January, Darci Vetter, chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, said the opening of the U.S. domestic market to Cuban food imports will require Congressional authorization.

“While the administration has made some changes lately to make it possible to finance exports to Cuba, any efforts to end the embargo or allow two-way trade have to be done by Congress,” Vetter stated. In short, the final decision on whether to allow imports is “a political question,” she added.

Florida farmers and ranchers have expressed concerns about the threats posed by future Cuban food imports. Cuban agriculture is largely owned and subsidized by the country’s government. Imports of sugar cane, fruits, vegetables, beef and other agricultural products from the island would directly compete against private, family farms in Florida and across this nation.

Farmers here also worry about the introduction of new invasive pests and diseases brought in with Cuban food products. Consumers would have to consider the overall quality and safety of Cuban foods.

Vetter emphasized that “any trade with Cuba would have to fall under the same regulations we put on other countries to send crops here.

“If there came a time when two-way trade with Cuba was allowable, what would have to happen is, we would need to be confident that trade in those products accurately dealt with the food safety and animal and plant health standards we expect,” she said.