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Open Letter to US Rice Producers
Wednesday, July 06, 2005   By: Juan Paxety

To: Dwight Roberts, President, U.S. Rice Producers Association
[email protected]

From: Juan Paxety

July 6, 2005

Dear Mr. Roberts:

You are quoted in the Los Angeles Times today as saying the following about the new restrictions on trade with Cuba: "Will someone please explain this policy to me?" Dwight A. Roberts, the Texan president of the U.S. Rice Producers Association, asked a recent news conference in Havana after describing financial losses to thousands of rice growers when U.S. restrictions were tightened.

It seems simple to me, Mr. Roberts. Mr. Castro has a long history of failing to pay for things he takes. It began with the nationalization of all industry way back in 1959.  Recent news reports quote European business people complaining that they have been thrown out of Cuba, to their financial ruin. After all, he has seized an entire country and the lives of its people.

As I understand the new trade restrictions, Cuba is required to pay for food before it receives it.  How is this different than how sales are handled with any other person or organization with bad credit?

What makes you, Mr. Roberts, believe that Cuba will actually pay for your rice? What happens if it doesn't pay? I fear you will run crying to Congress for financial aid to help you recover your losses. In other words, Mr. Roberts, your poor business decision will be paid for by me and all the other American taxpayers. That sounds like the true financial loss in this situation.

I'm posting this letter in my periodical - Paxety Pages (paxety.com). I'll be happy to post your reply. 

(Earlier story here.)

Update -  a reply only a couple of hours later.

Paxety,

Thank you and appreciate your comments.

Since the fall of 2001 and the passage of the Trade Sanctions Reform Act by our Congress with rules for trade with Cuba, the U.S. exported some 1.2 billion dollars worth of ag goods (rice and many others) to Cuba on a cash basis.  Everyone got paid, no problems.  Payment was required  to be paid in cash before the ship was allowed to enter Havana port and discharge. In 2004 some 160,000 tons of U.S. rice valued at 65 million dollars was sold to Cuba.  Everything was fine then along came a bright idea this past February from our Treasury Dept (Office of Foreign Assets Control) deciding that they had been misinterpreting the rule that they had enforced for the past 3 years.  Despite resistance from a majority of Congress, a special hearing on the subject by Congressman Goodlatte (Chairman of the House Ag Committee) and the ranking Democrat Collin Peterson, etc OFAC elected to change the rule on February 22nd of the definition of a cash payment.  This puts a much bigger risk on doing business and as a result trade from the U.S. has dropped drastically as Cuba has just turned to our competitors to make rice purchases from Vietnam, China or Thailand.  The only ones really hurt here are U.S. farmers and the surrounding industries.  Farmers don't want handouts, subsidies from Congress and you/I the taxpayers but they do want to have the freedom to sell food to whoever is willing to pay for it.  This is the policy I am asking about when I am quoted.  Food should be outside of embargoes. 

I am not naive to the realities of what has gone on and is going on in Cuba but our approach and policy has been ineffective and instead of giving it a proper reassessment we just try and get tougher. Both sides have to save face and win. The problem is this issue is actually not an international issue, but an American domestic issue mostly.

Again, I appreciate your comments.

Atentos Saludos / Dwight
And Dwight, I appreciate your reply. It raises the question of just what that change in definition of "cash payment" was, though.

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