Greetings, My Fellow Missourians

This past week I attended the 71st Annual Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) held in Biloxi, MS.  Biloxi is located right in the center of Mississippi’s 80-mile coastline on the Gulf of Mexico.  The coast is to Mississippi as Branson is to Missouri.  Mississippi has top rated beaches bringing in thousands of tourists to enjoy the seashores, coastal fishing and gambling in many casinos each year.  As with Missouri, the #1 industry in Mississippi is agriculture.  It generates $6.3 billion annually.  The most produced crops are cotton, soybeans and rice.  Their #2 industry is manufacturing, and they lead the way with Nissan and Toyota manufacturing as well as Ingalls Shipbuilding.

I serve on the SLC Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.  The main issue discussed this year was agricultural trade with Cuba.  Several of the 15 states that comprise the SLC are encouraging the U.S. to develop better trade relations with Cuba.  Cuba is a country with 11 million people; they import 80% of their food consisting mostly of rice and beans, currently amounting to $10 billion per year.  Despite ongoing economic sanctions, the U.S. has emerged as a major exporter of agricultural goods to Cuba.  Given Cuba’s geographic and economic position, Southern states have a competitive advantage in terms of production, quality, logistics and proximity.  Nine of the 10 top states that export to Cuba at this time are Southern states.  Our SLC Agriculture and Rural Development Committee examined current and future agricultural export opportunities to Cuba, current barriers, and steps that states can take to initiate trade with this nation.

One million meals:

Each year since 2011, members of the SLC and local communities work together to package outreach meals for the hungry.  This year was no different as delegates from across 15 Southern states worked together to help feed the Coast.  The campaign against hunger is spearheaded by Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and the SLC.   Approximately 150,000 people will be fed through this year’s efforts.  The significant thing about this year’s event is the fact that the packaging event held on Monday, July 31, at the 71st Annual SLC meeting, marked the passage of the one million meal mark.   Even though the majority of the legislators are not from Mississippi, they still came together to box over 50,000 packages that will eventually be distributed all along the Coast.  Next year, Missouri is the host state for the 72nd Annual SLC, and Missourians in need will benefit from this worthwhile campaign of concentrated effort.

In the news:

I want to give hearty congratulations to one of our outstanding District 125 constituents. Jackson Tough, executive director of the El Dorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, was selected as the recipient of the Torch Award from the National Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. The Torch Award winner is chosen based on leadership and mentor contributions, professional development and service to the industry, chamber and region.  Jackson’s insight and community-minded focus have had a positive impact on much more than the El Dorado Springs area.  Thank you to this dedicated citizen for his commitment and hard work for the greater good of our State.