Category Archives: Business and economics

Castro’s death moves Cuba farther into the market for Arkansas rice, ideas

By Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Fidel Castro is dead. How does that affect people in Arkansas? Maybe a lot, especially if they work in the rice industry or are elected to represent people who do.

Cuba’s 11 million people import 400,000 tons of rice each year, mostly from Vietnam, which means the rice arrives after a long boat ride from a country on the other side of the globe. Rep. Rick Crawford’s eastern Arkansas 1st District includes half of America’s rice acreage, so it’s understandable that his reaction to Castro’s death focused on the future, not the past.

“Fidel Castro’s death is an opportunity for America to end its ineffective policies so we can influence the future direction of that nation,” he tweeted, then added, “Through my own visits to Cuba I’ve seen people ready for change. With Fidel dead, America needs to help lead Cuba toward a better future.”

Casino vote makes strange bedfellows

By Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

There’s a lot more to this debate over the proposed casino amendment than just whether or not Arkansas should have more slot machines than it already does – which is quite a lot between Oaklawn and Southland.

Issue 5 would create a constitutional amendment authorizing the building of one casino each in Washington County, Miller County and Boone County. The casinos would be required to pay the state 18% of their net and would pay 1.5% to the city where they are located and .5% to their local counties. An Arkansas Gaming Commission would regulate.

Part of state’s deer population wasting away

By Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

One of the biggest stories in Arkansas this year involves four legs – and I’m not talking about the two apiece used by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

I’m talking about those used by deer, a growing number of whom have a deadly, incurable neurologic disease that spreads easily.

Chronic wasting disease is caused not by viruses or bacteria but by a protein called prions that attack a deer’s brain, sort of like mad cow disease. Prions are spread through contact with an infected deer’s urine, feces, saliva, blood or carcass. They’re not living, so they can’t be killed, and they last a long time on the forest floor.

Cuba: trade embargo, or free trade?

Rick Crawford
Rick Crawford
By Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford’s 1st District in eastern Arkansas is home to half the nation’s rice acres. Cuba imports 400,000 tons of rice a year, mostly from Vietnam. So yeah, he’s for opening up trade to Cuba.

Speaking by Skype last week to a pro-trade-with-Cuba gathering at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute on Petit Jean Mountain, Crawford said the trade embargo, in place since Oct. 19, 1960, has punished American producers instead of the Castro regime. Shipping rice from Vietnam take 36 days, versus the 36 hours it would take to ship Arkansas’ better, fresher rice, but the market is closed. Crawford, a member of a pro-Cuba trade congressional working group, has sponsored legislation that, among other provisions, would let Cuba buy rice on credit rather than requiring it to pay cash, which it doesn’t have. He’s traveling April 5-9.