Engage Cuba, State Leaders Launch Mississippi State Council

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Engage Cuba, a leading coalition of private companies and organizations working to lift the travel and trade embargo on Cuba, today joined state leaders to launch the Engage Cuba Mississippi State Council. The Council, which is made up of agriculture, business, manufacturing, health care, education and government leaders from across the state, will build statewide support for Congressional action to end the travel and trade ban on Cuba. 

In May, Engage Cuba released a report with the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) showing that Mississippi agribusiness continue to lose market share in Cuba's growing markets to foreign competitors. The council seeks to lift the travel and trade ban in order to allow Mississippi farmers to regain market share and fuel Cuba's growing private sector. A copy of the report is available here.

"We’re very pleased to work with all of our Engage Cuba Mississippi State Council members to lift the Cuba travel and trade ban that is costing Mississippi jobs and preventing economic development for the Cuban people. It's time to end 50 years of failed, isolationist policies toward Cuba,"said President of Engage Cuba, James Williams. "Mississippi 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 Mississippi agriculture, shipping and manufacturing sectors and support Cuba's growing private sector."

As Cuba’s markets continue to grow given the rise of tourism and the increasing purchasing power of 11 million Cubans, demand for high-quality U.S. exports will continue to rise. Given Mississippi’s world-class ports and proximity to our island neighbor, Mississippi is uniquely positioned to be an international leader in exports to Cuba.

As a top U.S. supplier of agriculture exports, Mississippi farmers would benefit from expanded trade with Cuba. Specifically, Mississippi is a top exporter of U.S. rice, and Cuba has the highest per capita rice consumption of any country in the Western Hemisphere. Additional Mississippi top exports like soybeans, soybean meal and corn will also be increasingly important for Cuba as its livestock sector continues to grow.

"Increasing Mississippi exports to Cuba would support Mississippi’s ports, which have a significant economic impact on the entire state," said Ashley Edwards, Director of the Gulf Business Council." The Mississippi State Port of Gulfport alone is an economic catalyst for the entire state. Increasing exports from the Gulfport would create jobs throughout Mississippi." 

“I'm pleased to work with the Engage Cuba Mississippi State Council to expand trade with Cuba in order to provide Mississippi farmers with significant benefits and create jobs throughout the state," said Mike McCormick, President of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.

Engage Cuba has launched state councils in 9 additional states including, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas. While Engage Cuba will continue to add members, the Founding Members of the Engage Cuba Mississippi State Council include:

Arden Barnett, President, Ardenland

Carlos Bell, Director of Public Engagement, Mississippi State Port Authority

Frank Bordeaux, Vice President, Stewart Sneed Hewes/Bancorp South Insurance Services

Rose Boxx, Director, Mississippi Development Authority

Dr. Kim Burke, Dean, Else School of Management, Millsaps College

Philip Burnett, Financial Advisor, Coker &   Palmer, Inc.

Rob Coker, Farmer

Alveno Castilla, Partner, Butler Snow

Dave Dennis, President, Specialty Contractors and Associates, Inc.

Hayes Dent, President, Hayes Dent Public Strategies, LLC

Tracy Diez, Executive Director, World Trade Center of Mississippi

Ashley Edwards, President, Mississippi Gulf Coast Business Council

G.G. Ferguson, President, Ferguson & Associates Architects

Dr. George Hopper, Dean, Mississippi State University School of Agriculture & Life Sciences

Cindy Hyde-Smith, Commissioner, Mississippi Department of Agriculture &Commerce

Tony Jeff, President, Innovate Mississippi

Mark Leggett, Executive Director, Mississippi Poultry Association

Brad Mason, Business Development Director, Johnson Controls, Inc.

Dr. Karen Matthews, CEO, Delta Health Alliance

Mark McAndrews, Port Director, Port of Pascagoula

Mike McCormick, President, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation

Glenn McCullough, Executive Director, Mississippi Development Authority

John Newcomb, President, Newcomb Farms

Mona Nicholas, Executive Director, USA International Ballet Competition

Jack Norris, Sr. Program Manager, Covington Civil & Environmental Engineering

Dr. Wilson Parry, Central Nephrology Clinic

Dr. David Shaw, Vice President for Research & Development, Mississippi State University

Philip Shirley, President, Godwin Group

Stewart Speed, President, Leaf River Group, LLC

Gibb Steele, President & CEO, Steele Farms

Tim Timbs, President & CEO, Indianola Pecan House

Clay Wagner, Senior Vice President for Economic Development, Hancock Bank

David Watkins, Jr., Manager, Soul City Hospitality

Jack Winstead, Water Management and Natural Resources Advisor, MS Department of Agriculture & Commerce

Hank Zuber, Representative, Mississippi House of Representatives