Ag businesses warn Trump administration about Title III

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Perdue. Photo: Bruce Tuten

Perdue. Photo: Bruce Tuten

CUBA STANDARD — A coalition of 34 U.S. agribusiness companies and 74 agricultural associations urges the Trump administration not to allow claimants of confiscated properties in Cuba to file lawsuits in U.S. courts.

In an open letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the United Sates Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) warns that, if President Donald Trump fails to suspend Title III of the Helms-Burton Act on March 2, “an unnecessary flood of litigation” could “dash the export of U.S. food products to Cuba, harming American companies and the Cuban people who depend on these products”.

U.S. companies exported close to $230 million worth of agricultural goods to Cuba in 2018, down an estimated 18% from the year before.

“At a time when the need to develop new export markets is more important than ever, we urge you to work in strong support of U.S. agricultural producers seeking to expand our exports to Cuba,” the USACC says in its letter to Perdue, alluding to U.S. farm exports being hurt by the Trump administration’s trade wars.

Cuba has indemnified owners of properties confiscated after the revolution from all countries except the United States. Preliminary talks about settling U.S. claims began during the Obama years, but there has been no meeting since Donald Trump moved into the White House.

All presidents since Bill Clinton have routinely suspended Title III every six months, arguing it was in the national interest to avoid conflict with partner countries over Cuba. But now, Trump administration officials have threatened to activate the clause. In January — citing Cuba’s “indefensible support” for the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suspended Title III for only 45 days.

“We encourage any person doing business in Cuba to reconsider whether they are trafficking in confiscated property and abetting this dictatorship,” a State Department statement said in January.

What’s at stake?

If the Trump administration does not suspend Title III on March 2, a large chunk of of U.S. nationals who hold 5,913 registered claims will be able to sue in U.S. courts, as will Cubans who left everything behind to emigrate here.

According to John Kavulich of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, 915 certified claimants would be eligible to file suit, based on minimum value provisions in U.S. laws.

It is impossible to estimate how many lawsuits would be filed by the two sets of plaintiffs, says Phil Peters, a Cuba observer and former State Department official. For one, Title III itself bars Cuban Americans from filing lawsuits over their former homes.

“But the number of lawsuits is not really the point – what matters is the cloud of uncertainty that the mere threat of litigation would cast over Cuba’s investment climate for years to come,” Peters wrote in a recent column for Cuba Standard.

Peters expects other U.S. trading partners to join Canada, Mexico, and Britain in enacting laws to block their companies from complying with any action resulting from the Helms-Burton law, and the European Union to revive its WTO action against Helms-Burton and to pursue its effort to create alternative international payments channels that have no connection to the United States banking system.

Export promotion

In the letter, the USACC also urges Perdue to enable federally funded export promotion for U.S. exports to Cuba, as budgeted in the recently passed farm bill.

“We hope that those funds will be fully implemented in 2019 for Cuba and allow us to both promote, educate, and carry out research that will help us to compete with existing countries currently exporting food to Cuba,” the letter says.

“Mr. Secretary, you well know that this is a time of turbulence in our agricultural export markets, and every market, no matter the size, is important. There is no reason for us not to increase substantially our market share in a neighboring country that imports $2 billion in food each year”, the letter ends.

The letter was signed by the following associations:

American Farm Bureau Federation

American Soybean Association

American Seed Trade Association

American Feed Industry Association

Association of Equipment Manufacturers

Cherry Marketing Institute

Corn Refiners Association

Council of State Governments

CNFA: Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture

Global Aquaculture Alliance

Independent Professional Seed Association

International Dairy Foods Association Matter

National Association of Wheat Growers

National Association of Egg Farmers

National Barley Growers Association

National Black Growers Council

National Chicken Council

National Corn Growers Association

National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

National Farmers Union

National Foreign Trade Council

National Grain and Feed Association

National Milk Producers Federation

National Oilseed Processors Association

National Potato Council

National Renderers Association

National Sorghum Producers

National Turkey Federation

North American Export Grain Association North American Meat Institute

Rural & Agricultural Council of America

Soyfoods Association of North America

USA Poultry & Egg Export Council

US Canola Association

US Cattlemen’s Association

US Dairy Export Council

US Dry Bean Council

US Grains Council

US Wheat Associates

US Rice Producers Association

USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council

USA Rice Federation

U.S. Agricultural Export Development Council

Agribusiness Council of Indiana Arkansas Rice Growers Association Arkansas Farm Bureau

California Rice Producers

Holstein Association USA

Illinois Corn Growers Association

Illinois Cuba Working Group Illinois Soybean Growers

Illinois Farm Bureau

Indiana Farm Bureau

Indiana Corn Growers Association

Indiana Soybean Alliance

Indiana Corn Marketing Council

Iowa Corn Growers Association

Iowa Farm Bureau

Kansas Wheat

Louisiana Rice Council

Michigan Apple Association

Michigan Bean Shippers

Michigan Bean Commission

Michigan Milk Producers Association

Michigan Corn Growers Association

Michigan Potato Industry Commission

Missouri Corn Growers Association

Missouri Soybean Association

Missouri Department of Economic Development

Missouri Rice Council

Missouri Forest Products Association

Missouri Farm Bureau

Mississippi Rice Council

Ohio Farm Bureau

Texas Farm Bureau

University of Missouri-Fisher Delta Research Center

Alcorn State University

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

 

Agriculture Corporations:

Advanced Drainage Systems AGCO

Bunge

Butterball

Cargill, Incorporated

Chicago Foods International

Campbell Farms

Clark AG Company

CoBank

Dairy Farmers of America

Franklin Electric

GreenStone Farm Credit Services

Hampton Alternative Energy & Feedlot

Hover Farms

Intertek Agriculture Services

Kaehler Agriculture Enterprises

Kerley Nutritional Consulting

Louis Dreyfus Company

Missouri BioZyme, Inc

Missouri Burnett Farms

Martin Rice Company

Michigan Allied Poultry Industries, Inc

Net Worth Feeds & Feeding

Orrick Farm Services

Gary Murphy Farms

Smithfield Foods

South Louisiana Rail Facility

Sun-Maid Growers of California

St. James Winery

Synergy Resource Solutions, Inc.

Thomas E. Jennings and Associates, Inc.

Turkey Knob Growers

TRC Trading Group

US Wellness Meats

US Cava Exports

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