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Committee votes to expand U.S. ag trade to Cuba

The House Agriculture Committee passed legislation last Thursday to expand U.S. agriculture trade and increase jobs, approving historic legislation that will greatly expand trade of U.S. agriculture products to Cuba.

H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, is a bipartisan bill introduced by Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) and co-sponsored by 62 Members of Congress, including Representatives Jerry Moran of Kansas. The bill passed the Committee by a vote of 25-20.

"I am proud to say that today, the House Agriculture Committee took a courageous vote to end the short-sighted and failed policy that limits American agriculture's access to the Cuban market." Peterson said. "An unprecedented coalition of agriculture, business, religious and social organizations have endorsed H.R. 4645, and today's vote demonstrates that Congress is ready to change our nation's approach on this issue."

Approximately 140 groups have expressed strong support for H.R. 4645, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Farmers Union, American Farm Bureau Federation, and Human Rights Watch. The House Agriculture Committee also received a letter signed by more than 70 pro-democracy Cuban leaders that strongly encouraged passage of H.R. 4645.

"This legislation is the right policy at the right time," Peterson said. "We have tried to isolate Cuba for more than 50 years, and it has not worked. As it has in other countries, perhaps increasing trade with Cuba will encourage democratic progress."

During the business meeting the committee also approved three other measures by voice vote. A brief summary of each measure is included below.

H.R. 2476, the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2009, amends the National Forest Ski Area Permit Act of 1986 to require the term and acreage of permits for the operation of ski areas and associated facilities (under current law, for the operation of nordic and alpine ski areas and facilities) on National Forest System lands to be governed by provisions under the Act relating to such permits and other applicable law.

H.R. 4658, the Benton MacKaye Cherokee National Forest Lane Consolidation Act, authorizes the conveyance of a small parcel of National Forest System land in the Cherokee National Forest and authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to use the proceeds from that conveyance to acquire a parcel of land for inclusion in that national forest, and for other purposes.

H.R. 5414, provides for the conveyance of a small parcel of National Forest system land in the Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina, and for other purposes.