By: Frank Lockwood
"The death of Fidel Castro significantly changed the environment. ... The United States, in my judgment, is waiting for a signal of greater openness and a willingness to change," he said. If that message is transmitted, trade between the countries will likely accelerate, he added. Members of theEngage Cuba Coalition's Arkansas State Council, which promotes U.S-Cuba trade, are hopeful closer ties will develop. Ben Noble, executive director of the Arkansas Rice Federation, said access to the Cuban market will be a priority in 2017. "If ever there was a time for full engagement with Cuba, it is today," he said. Another member, Newport farmer Derek Haigwood, agrees. "I do grow rice, and, oh, it would just be a wonderful thing if we could open up that market," he said. If Arkansas farmers make inroads in Cuba, "it's just something that would lift this economy up," he added.