Madam Speaker, I rise this morning to highlight the importance of free trade and the merits of agricultural trade, particularly rice trade, with Cuba. An injunction against tourism is one thing, but our sanctions against Castro's regime, which have been in place since 1963, should not prevent our Nation from selling farm products, specifically rice, to the people there.

The Cuban people will eat rice. If we will not sell it to them, they will get it elsewhere. Why are we economically punishing ourselves and our farmers in the name of punishing Communists in Cuba?

The Cuban market remained closed until this body passed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000. With the reopening mandated by this Act, rice sales to Cuba have grown to $64 million a year. But now we hear that some want to slash back this momentous trade for political reasons.

The Federal Government announced it was redefining the definition of ``payment of cash in advance,'' a ruling which could jeopardize future trade. This bureaucracy is getting in the way of the law. As Cubans begin looking to Vietnam, Thailand and for other sources for rice, I urge colleagues to cosign H.R. 1339 to further explain in simple terms to government bureaucrats that U.S. farmers should be allowed to trade with Cuba on a cash-for-crop basis.