WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — More than 25 U.S. food and agriculture companies and associations have formed a coalition that seeks to end the U.S. embargo on Cuba and advance trade relations between the nations.

The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) was publicly launched on Jan. 8 in Washington, D.C., U.S. This comes on the heels of President Barack Obama announcing on Dec. 17 that the U.S. would begin discussions to renew diplomatic relations with Cuba.

The coalition will be led by Devry Boughner Vorwerk, director of international business relations at Cargill Inc. Paul Johnson, president of Chicago Foods International LLC, will serve as vice-chair of the coalition.

The USACC said it wants to advance trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba by reestablishing
Cuba as a market for U.S. food and agriculture exports. The USACC said it believes that normalizing trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba will provide the U.S.farm and business community with new market access opportunities, drive enhanced growth in both countries and allow U.S. farmers, ranchers and food companies to efficiently address Cuban citizen’s food security needs.

Under current sanctions, U.S. food and agriculture companies can legally export to Cuba, but financing and trade restrictions limit their ability to serve the market competitively, the USACC said. Ultimately, the group said it seeks to end the embargo and allow for open trade and investment.

USACC members include: American Farm Bureau Federation, American Meat Institute, American Soybean Association, Corn Refiners Association, Illinois Cuba Working Group, Illinois Soybean Growers, International Dairy Foods Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Chicken Council, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union, National Grain & Feed Association, National Oilseed Processors Association, National Turkey Federation, North American Export Grain Association, Soyfoods Association of North America, U.S. Wheat Associates, United Soybean Export Council, U.S. Canola Association, U.S. Dry Bean Council, U.S. Soybean Export Council, USA Rice Federation, Chicago Foods International, Cargill and CoBank.

More information on the group is available at www.usagcoalition.com.

The American Soybean Association (ASA) said the demand for soy products is growing exponentially in Cuba, which means a significant new market for American soy growers.

"Like any new and developing market, Cuba represents a great opportunity for soybean farmers in the U.S.," said ASA President Wade Cowan. "We are proud to be part of the USACC because expanding our relationships with markets like Cuba generates concrete value for American farmers by increasing demand not only for soybeans, but also for the livestock and meat products that make up our largest customer base. While we've been able to sell beans in Cuba for years now, we're a long way from being completely open for business in that country. As part of the USACC, we'll work with our fellow organizations at all points in the supply chain to ensure that the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba is one that benefits both our countries."