Lawmakers discuss changes to Cuba trade policy, could mean big changes for rice industry

RAYNE, La. (KLFY) – Some lawmakers in Washington are working to make a change to the Cuba trade policy.

The change could open doors for farmers in several states including Louisiana.

“There are a lot of farmers that have been holding their breath for a long time. One day it’s going to be really big for Louisiana,” Acadia Parish Farmer Fred Zaunbrecher said.

The U.S. put a trade embargo on Cuba in the 60’s.

“Actually before the embargo rice was probably one of the largest commodities exported to Cuba,” Zaunbrecher said.

Over the years the U.S. tried to make changes to the trade policy several times.

“With every administration since Bush and Obama and now Trump, everybody is hoping things change. That Cuba and the United States will have a relationship that will help this trade,” Zaunbrecher said.

But Acadia Parish Rice Farmer Fred Zaunbrecher said progress has been slow.

“We always thought that when Fidel Castro died that things might change and they may have softened up a little bit, but his brother still rules and their regime is still in place. There are a lot of issues that need to be worked out, but with the human rights issues and political issues, that runs pretty deep.”

He said if lawmakers are successful, it could mean big opportunities for the rice industry.

“We’re just taking one step at a time and hoping that one day we can trade rice with Cuba because it would mean big difference for rice producers. It would definitely improve our bottom line.”

Zaunbrecher said he is not expecting to see a change anytime soon, but he is hopeful for the future.



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