Private credit for Cuba on table “If our folks grow it, I want to sell it”

HAVANA, May 20th U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he wants to remove barriers to trade with Cuba, telling a House committee this week: “If our folks grow it, I want to sell it.”

Current U.S. law prevents American farmers from extending credit to Cuban purchasers. U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, a Jonesboro Republican who represents much of eastern Arkansas, has introduced legislation that would remove the restrictions on private loans.

This week, Crawford lobbied for the bill on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

During a meeting of the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday, Crawford asked Perdue to back H.R. 525, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act.

“I think that’s something I would be supportive of if folks around the world need private credit to buy our products, and I’m all for that,” Perdue told Crawford and the other committee members. “I probably would have some personal concern if we were doing public credit to the nation of Cuba.”

Crawford, who represents the nation’s top rice-producing district, said he shared that view. “That is strictly a private transaction with no taxpayer public backstop and I think that is important to note,” he replied.

Supporters of U.S.-Cuban trade welcomed the statement from a member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet.