Cuba advocacy group, Georgia ag leaders join to end US embargo

Southeast Farm Press

Engage Cuba, an advocacy group, and Georgia ag leaders are tired of losing trade and business opportunities to foreign competitors as Cuban markets open up and grow.

On May 23, Engage Cuba launched a Georgia State Council to build support across Georgia to end the travel and trade embargo with Cuba. The council is made up of business, agricultural, port and community leaders and seeks to expand trade with Cuba in order to provide opportunities for Georgia businesses and empower the Cuban people, the group says.

Engage Cuba is advocating for the bipartisan Agricultural Export Expansion Act of 2015 in order to allow Georgia farmers to offer financing to Cuban importers and recapture lost market share.

Cuba imports almost 80 percent of its food, and demand for commodities will continue to grow given the rise of tourism and the increasing purchasing power of 11 million Cubans, according to the group.

However, Georgia's agriculture, tourism and manufacturing sectors continue to lose out on Cuba's fertile markets to foreign competitors due to existing trade barriers, the group says. Georgia exports, specifically poultry, have significant room for growth if changes in U.S. policies open opportunities for trade with Cuba and allow U.S. exporters to extend private credit to Cuba.

Additionally, despite the fact that Atlanta is less than a two hour plane ride away from Havana, Georgians are still prohibited from traveling freely to Cuba.

"Georgia businesses are stuck on the sidelines as our foreign competitors continue to take advantage of Cuba's growing markets. Opening up trade with Cuba would provide tremendous opportunities for Georgia's agriculture, tourism and manufacturing sectors," said President of Engage Cuba James Williams. "As momentum builds across the country, we're very pleased to work with the Georgia State Council to lift the embargo that is costing Georgia jobs and preventing economic development for the Cuban people. It's time to end 50 years of failed, isolationist policies toward Cuba."

In addition to Georgia, Engage Cuba has launched state councils in Minnesota, Ohio, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana as part of efforts to build momentum across the country. This network of state councils will mobilize grassroots support for lifting the Cuban embargo. The Georgia State Council is being launched in partnership with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

The Engage Cuba Georgia State Council includes:

  • Gary Black, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Agriculture
  • William F. Bina III, MD, MPH, Dean, Mercer University School of Medicine
  • Mark Butler, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Labor
  • Justin Clay, Director of Government Relations, NCR Corporation
  • Terry Coleman, Former Speaker, Georgia House of Representatives
  • Billy Crider, Chairman, Crider Inc.
  • John Cushnie, SVP, Investor Engagement, Georgia Chamber of Commerce
  • Larry H. Hanson, City Manager, City of Valdosta
  • John C. Key, Executive Director of Pan American Council on Trade, LLC
  • Jerry Lane, President, Claxton Poultry
  • Jann Moore, Government Affairs Manager, Caterpillar
  • Sam Pardue, Dean, UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
  • Sean Register, Founder & CEO of Register International
  • Tas Smith, National Affairs Specialist, Georgia Farm Bureau
  • Ron Stephens, Chairman, House Economic Development & Tourism Committee
  • Dennis Wynn, Director, Membership Development, Choice Hotels