WASHINGTON – If restrictions on travel and export financing for products going to the Cuba are lifted, US pork exports to that nation will more than triple, according to an Iowa State University analysis. The National Pork Producers Council is urging House lawmakers to take up legislation (H.R. 4645) that would let US citizens travel to Cuba and allow direct transfers of funds from Cuban to US financial institutions for products authorized for sale under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000.

This law granted exceptions for agricultural and medical products to the unilateral trade embargo the United States placed on Cuba in 1960 after that country nationalized the property of US citizens and corporations.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is expected to mark up the bill Sept. 29. In a letter sent Sept. 28, NPPC asked the panel’s members to support H.R. 4645 and to oppose any amendments to it. Senate companion legislation is pending action in the Finance Committee.

US pork exports would increase by $28.2 million once the travel and financing restrictions on Cuba are lifted, Iowa State economist Dermot Hayes estimates. Over the past year, the US shipped about $13.4 million of pork to Cuba. The policy change also would create about 6,000 additional jobs in the US, according to a study conducted by Texas A&M University, which also found that total US exports would increase by $365 million a year.

“Because of its proximity to Cuba – just 90 miles separate the countries – the United States is in position to capture a large share of the Cuban pork import market,” said Sam Carney, NPPC president and a pork producer from Adair, Iowa. “For the US pork industry to remain successful and viable, we need new and expanded market access, and H.R. 4645 can provide that access.”

Last year the US pork industry shipped more than $4.3 billion of pork products, adding about $38 to the price producers received for each hog marketed.