Mr. Speaker, southeast Texas has over 40,000 acres of rice fields. Until recently, the combined acreage of rice farms in the State of Texas was about 600,000 acres. That is bigger than the State of Rhode Island. Hometown rice farmers, like my friend Ray Stoesser, are seriously struggling, however. Ray, like most rice farmers, simply wants more markets to sell American rice.

The House and Senate versions of the Treasury, Transportation appropriations bill enhanced markets and included language that would allow agricultural trade to Cuba. The conference report, however, stripped that language out and maintains the current trade embargo. The conferees' refusal to allow rice trade to Cuba defies common sense. It places politics above American farmers like Ray Stoesser, not to mention it is bad for the American economy.

The Cuban people will continue to eat rice. If we do not sell it to them, they will get it from that communist nation Vietnam. We hear talk of free trade. NAFTA, CAFTA, we trade with the Communists in China, but not selling rice to Cuba does not punish Castro and his Communists. It punishes American rice farmers.

Mr. Speaker, this ought not to be.