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Forum editorial: An empty gesture by N.D. House

In one of the most wrongheaded stunts of the 2003 legislative session, the North Dakota House of Representatives rejected a resolution urging the lifting of a U.S. trade embargo with Cuba. Last week's vote was yet another indication that too many...

In one of the most wrongheaded stunts of the 2003 legislative session, the North Dakota House of Representatives rejected a resolution urging the lifting of a U.S. trade embargo with Cuba. Last week's vote was yet another indication that too many lawmakers are mired in an ideological past that disserves the interests of North Dakota agriculture.

And the Cuba resolution was about agriculture, certainly not politics. The drive to open North Dakota farm commodities trade with the Caribbean island nation has been one of the most successful bipartisan efforts in the state's history. A Republican governor and lieutenant governor have been on the same Cuba trade page with the state's Democratic congressional delegation. Both the North Dakota Farm Bureau, which tends to be Republican, and the Democratic state commissioner of agriculture have been working to develop trade deals with Cuba.

Yet, the North Dakota House -- that renowned repository of ag trade knowledge and foreign policy expertise -- twisted a trade effort into some sort of nonsensical notion of support for the president because the nation is at war with Iraq. Said freshman Rep. Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck, the state should be supporting the president (Bush opposes trade with Cuba, in large part because his brother, the governor of Florida, needs the support of the anti-Castro Cuban community) "at this important place in history."

Oranges and apples. An inappropriate use of political loyalty.

And gosh-awful silly, too.

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According to opponents of more trade with Cuba, lifting the embargo would cancel the cash-only trade deals with Cuba. Trade will continue, said Sitte, "but the money will be paid up front."

Her knowledge of Cuba trade is incomplete, at best. Embargo or no, cash-only sales still would be the working mechanism until the Cuban economy -- which would evolve with more trade with the United States -- developed a reliable credit system.

Furthermore, by lifting the embargo, chances would improve for more sales of North Dakota commodities and processed foods. The more the door is opened, the better the opportunities for selling North Dakota products to that new and hungry market.

Yet, the House found it necessary to beat down a resolution that had passed the Senate and had the support of the governor, ag commissioner, major farm organizations and most anyone else who is sincere about doing right by the state's farm economy.

The House majority was wrong. What a stupid gesture. What a kick in the teeth for the visionary leaders of North Dakota, most of whom have been able to put aside partisan politics for the greater good of the state's ag-based economy.

Nineteen members of the House were absent for the vote. The resolution was beaten 41-34. If possible, it should be returned to the floor for another vote. Maybe the House can redeem itself.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board

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