NBC-WAVE: Kentucky leaders launch Engage Cuba Kentucky State Council

Wave 3 News


On Tuesday, the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture and the CEO of Blue Equity led a bipartisan group of Kentucky leaders to launch the Engage Cuba Kentucky State Council, an effort to promote stronger U.S.-Cuba ties.

The purpose of the Engage Cuba Kentucky State Council is to advance pro-Cuba engagement policies that support Kentucky jobs and empower the Cuban people.

Members of the council, including prominent Kentucky government, agriculture, education, and business leaders, believe the U.S. embargo on Cuba is hurting Kentucky farmers, Kentucky businesses and the Cuban people. For that reason, the group seeks to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba in order to boost Kentucky's exports in major job-creating industries, including agriculture and manufacturing. 

“I strongly support lifting the Cuban Trade embargo," said U.S. Congressman James Comer, an honorary co-chair of the council. "This measure is one that would be good for the agriculture community and the first district of Kentucky. The crops Cuba needs to import like soybeans and poultry are all major crops in Kentucky. As a result, our country could have better access to products like coffee and tropical fruits coming from Cuba. Lifting the Cuban trade embargo is a win-win for American farmers and consumers."

“Kentucky's manufacturing and agriculture industries are economic drivers and job creators in the Commonwealth," said James Williams, President of Engage Cuba. "Opening up trade with Cuba would provide significant opportunities for Kentucky businesses and farmers across the state. However, Kentuckians are stuck on the sidelines as our foreign competitors continue to take advantage of Cuba’s growing markets. We are very pleased to have a diverse list of dynamic and engaged Kentuckians willing to step up and call on Congress to lift the embargo that is costing Kentucky jobs and preventing economic development for the Cuban people. It’s time to end fifty years of failed isolationist policy towards Cuba.”

Expanding trade with Cuba would support Kentucky agriculture, the press release states, which has generated over 280,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. Cuba imports nearly 80% of its food, amounting to about $2 billion a year and Kentucky’s leading agricultural commodities including, poultry, soybeans, wheat and grain, are all top imports in Cuba.  


  • James Comer, U.S. Congressman (Honorary chair)
  • Jon Yarmuth, U.S. Congressman (Honorary chair) 
  • Ryan Quarles, Commissioner of Agriculture, State of Kentucky (Co-chair)
  • Jonathan Blue, Chairman & Managing Director, Blue Equity (Co-chair) 
  • Robert Brown, Chairman, District Export Council of Kentucky (Vice Chair) 
  • Richard Grana, Owner, Impex (Vice Chair) 
  • Nathan Cryder, Director, Edelen Strategic Ventures (Vice Chair) 

Council members:

  • Steven Beam, President, Limestone Branch Distillery
  • Barbara Boyd, Chair, Kentucky Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression
  • Keith Bundy, President, Silent Brigade Distillery
  • Lisa Crutcher, CEO, Catholic Charities of Louisville
  • Adam Edelen, CEO, Edelen Strategic Ventures
  • Dr. Robert Farley, Professor, University of Kentucky Patterson School of Diplomacy
  • Jim Gray, Mayor, City of Lexington
  • Craig Greenberg, President, 21C Hotel and Museum
  • Alison Lundergan Grimes, Secretary of State, State of Kentucky
  • Mark Haney, President, Kentucky Farm Bureau
  • Phil Holoubek, CEO, Lexington Real Estate Company
  • Interfaiths Path to Peace
  • Archbishop Joseph Edward Kurtz, Archdiocese of Louisville
  • Bill Miller, Executive Director, Paducah-McCracken County Riverport Authority
  • Sam Rock, Cofounder, Bluegrass Distilling
  • Sister Cities of Louisville
  • Jonathan Steiner, CEO, Kentucky League of Cities
  • Griffin Van Meter, Founder, Kentucky for Kentucky
  • Bryan Warren, Director of Globalization, Louisville International Organization Network
  • J. Edwin Webb, President & CEO, World Trade Center of Kentucky
  • Xiao Yin Zhou, Director, Kentucky World Affairs Council
  • Kaveh Zamanian, President, Rabbit Hole Distillery