The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Delta Conference in Little Rock Only a Month Away--Please Register If You Have Not Already Done So

Posted on October 03, 2019 at 11:39 AM

The Greater Delta Region conference in Little Rock is only a month away on Nov. 7-8, 2019, so please register if you have not already done so. You register by paying the registration fees and that information is below.

The opening session is Thursday evening Nov. 7 at the Arkansas State Capitol Rotunda from 4:45 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. The Friday morning and lunch session is Nov. 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Robinson Center Ballroom overlooking the Arkansas River.

This conference will focus on transportation, housing, broadband access, levee improvements/flood control infrastructure, education, job creation, nutrition and related issues.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Nov. 23 Presidential Candidates Forum on Poverty in South Carolina—Brief Summary

II. REGISTRATION FOR NOV. 7-8 DELTA CONFERENCE IN LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS

III. NOV. 7-8 LITTLE ROCK SPEAKERS ON INFRASTRUCTURE, JOBS, EDUCATION AND RELATED ISSUES

IV. STATEMENT FROM HUNGER FREE AMERICA & ORGANIZERS OF NOV. 23 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES’ FORUM ON POVERTY IN SOUTH CAROLINA

NOTE–We do not expect people to read the entire in-depth newsletter–people typically look at the table of contents and scroll down to parts of interest to them.

I. Nov. 23 Presidential Candidates Forum on Poverty

The Delta Caucus and other regional and national organizations across the country are supporting the Presidential Candidate Action for Opportunity Forum to be held in rural South Carolina—in the diverse, economically distressed town of Manning SC that is very similar to many Delta communities on Nov. 23.

Caucus Director Lee Powell, Delta senior partner Wilson Golden will be there, and one of the questioners is Annette Dove, Executive Director of the great TOPPS, Inc. in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

We know that South Carolina is far from the Delta and most people from our region will not be able to attend, but we wanted you to know of our support for what will be a unique event aimed at getting poverty and economic opportunity on the radar screen of the Presidential candidates. As the key organizer Joel Berg, CEO of the national anti-poverty and hunger organization Hunger Free America has shown, in 50 Presidential debates from 2008 to the present not one question focused on hunger, poverty and homelessness. This event will change that glaring omission.

If anyone would like to attend the unique South Carolina event, please get in touch with Lee Powell at 202-360-6347 or Leepowell@delta.comcastbiz.net

We should emphasize that in the next recession many middle class people will inevitably fall into lower income categories. Poverty is a concern for middle class people and everybody—the higher health care costs, substance abuse, crime, and lost productivity from poverty harm all populations in our society.

II. REGISTRATION FOR NOV. 7-8 DELTA CONFERENCE IN LITTLE ROCK

You register by paying the registration fees. These are $100 for those who have not paid annual membership dues, $75 for those who have paid their 2019 dues, and there are also groups who receive discounts for getting a group of people together to go to the event.

If you have any questions about registration, please contact Lee Powell at (202) 360-6347 or Leepowell@delta.comcastbiz.net

The easiest and fastest way to pay the registration fees is to go on the website at mdgc.us and go to the PayPal link at the top of the site that says “Donate.”

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus 5030 Purslane Place Waldorf, MD 20601

GROUP HOTEL

The group hotel is Holiday Inn Presidential in the Little Rock River Market area. We have the group discount for $89, which is a relatively low rate for a good hotel in that area.

To get the discount rate for the night of Thursday November 7, please call the hotel at (501) 375-2100 and tell them you are with the Delta Caucus group.

III. SPEAKERS ON INFRASTRUCTURE, JOBS, EDUCATION AND OTHER DELTA REGIONAL ISSUES

Below is a tentative list of speakers who have indicated they will be able to participate at the Nov. 7-8, 2019 Delta conference in Little Rock:

We are inviting federal, state and regional leaders but they confirm usually much later in the process, often only a few weeks beforehand due to their hectic schedules.

We are inviting other speakers so this is a preliminary list.

In honor of the late great Carol Willis, champion of the Delta and one of the most trusted senior advisers to President Bill Clinton, we are recognizing a promising young leader who will follow in Carol Willis’ footsteps in working for positive change through the democratic political process through our annual Carol Willis Scholarship.

This year we plan to recognize Jeramie Alexander, a brilliant student at Philander Smith College in Little Rock who was elected Mr. Philander Smith College by jhis fellow students as exemplifying the best traditions of the college. He is involved in an organization that empowers young African American males, is majoring in social work and plans to pursue a law degree and master’s in social work upon graduating from Philander Smith.

Mr. Alexander is a student of Professor Tracey McElwee, Chair of the Philander Smith College Dept. of Social Work. Professor McElwee will be among our speakers at this event.

Carol Willis was one of most famous alumni of Philander Smith College.

We are announcing the formation of the “Little Rock/Delta Partnership for Progress” to deepen and make explicit the longstanding collaboration between Little Rock and the east Arkansas Delta in promoting community and economic progress in Arkansas and the rest of our region. Philander Smith College and other Little Rock institutions and leaders will have a prominent role at this conference and we will be sending out further information about this partnership.

Kay Goss, former Associate Director of FEMA (native Arkansan now based in the Washington, DC area) and nationally recognized expert on disaster relief issues. She emphasizes the need to take a pro-active, long-term approach to levee improvements and other responses to the flooding that has been getting more severe in recent years and likely will become even more serious in the future.

We want to include all the major rivers in the region—the Arkansas, White, Mississippi, Ohio and others.

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Please Register for Delta Conference in Little Rock on Nov. 7-8: Infrastructure, Jobs, Education

Posted on September 13, 2019 at 11:58 AM

Please register for the annual Greater Delta Region conference in Little Rock on Nov. 7-8, 2019. We are only seven weeks away now. Registration information is below.

We will focus on a broad range of infrastructure issues including transportation, levee improvements and flood control, housing, water programs, and broadband access expansion, to create jobs and improve our infrastructure. We always include education, health and nutrition, Delta Heritage tourism and related issues as well.

We will be announcing the formation of the Delta/Little Rock Partnership for Progress: although we all know that Little Rock is much more urban and much of it is more affluent than the Delta. Yet it is adjacent to the Delta, certainly has some diverse, economically distressed neighborhoods that have a lot in common with our region, and there are key issues we can work on collaboratively in transportation infrastructure from Little Rock to Sikeston, Missouri, Little Rock to Memphis, Little Rock to southeast Arkansas and beyond in the region, the Arkansas Works health insurance program, diversity, levee improvements on the White, Arkansas, Mississippi and other regional rivers, and many other regional initiatives.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. REGISTRATION

II. SCHEDULE

III. GROUP HOTEL

IV. SPEAKERS ON INFRASTRUCTURE, JOBS, EDUCATION AND OTHER ISSUES

V. CRUCIAL IMPORTANCE OF UNIFYING, INCLUSIVE REGIONAL APPROACH

VI. FORMATION OF DELTA/LITTLE ROCK PARTNERSHIP FOR PROGRESS

I. REGISTRATION

You register by paying the registration fees, which are $75 for those who paid their annual membership dues and/or attended the West Memphis Delta conference this spring, and $100 for those who have not paid annual dues for calendar year 2019.

GROUP DISCOUNTS: If you can organize a group of four or more people, we will reduce the discounts further to $40 each.

The easiest and fastest way to register is to go on the website at mdgc.us and go to the PayPal link at the top of the site that says “Donate.”

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

II. SCHEDULE

OPENING SESSION–Thursday evening, Nov. 7, from 4:45 to 7:15 p.m. at the Arkansas State Capitol Rotunda

(Note: There is an informal socializing/networking dinner at the group hotel Holiday Inn Presidential Camp David restaurant right after the opening session ends a little after 7 p.m.)

FRIDAY MORNING AND LUNCH–Friday, Nov. 8, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Robinson Center Ballroom overlooking the Arkansas River

III. GROUP HOTEL

The group hotel is Holiday Inn Presidential in the Little Rock River Market area. We have the group discount for $89, which is a relatively low rate for a good hotel in that area.

To get the discount rate for the night of Thursday November 7, please call the hotel at (501) 375-2100 and tell them you are with the Delta Caucus group.

IV. SPEAKERS ON INFRASTRUCTURE, JOBS, EDUCATION AND OTHER DELTA REGIONAL ISSUES

Below is a tentative list of speakers who have indicated they will be able to participate at the Nov. 7-8, 2019 Delta conference in Little Rock:

We are inviting federal, state and regional leaders but they confirm usually much later in the process, often only a few weeks beforehand due to their hectic schedules.

We are inviting other speakers so this is a preliminary list.

Kay Goss, former Associate Director of FEMA (native Arkansan now based in the Washington, DC area) and nationally recognized expert on disaster relief issues. She emphasizes the need to take a pro-active, long-term approach to levee improvements and other responses to the flooding that has been getting more severe in recent years and likely will become even more serious in the future.

We want to include all the major rivers in the region—the Arkansas, White, Mississippi, Ohio and others.

Mayor Shirley Washington of Pine Bluff, Arkansas—her city had some of the worst flooding earlier this year, and they are working on a series of initiatives to repair the damage and prepare for future flooding. We are asking Mayor Washington to address flood control as well as other infrastructure issues and downtown revitalization in Pine Bluff, the largest of the heartland Arkansas Delta communities. Mayor Washington is a member of the state levee review task force appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Mike Marshall, CEO, Sikeston, Missouri Regional Chamber of Commerce and economic development corporation, formerly Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority: Mike Marshall will address a range of infrastructure issues, including the Interstate 57 project between Sikeston, Missouri and Little Rock—one of the examples of the logic for Little Rock/Delta collaboration in advocating for completion of this transportation artery across a significant part of our region.

Peggy Bradford, Shawnee Community College in southern Illinois—Ms. Bradford was formerly President of Shawnee Community College and is now engaged in a research project regarding economic development, education and related issues in the southern Illinois Delta.

Victor Jones, Southern Poverty Law Center, New Orleans, Louisiana—he is an attorney working on cases for education and help for the youth of our region, based in the historic city of New Orleans. The Southern Poverty Law Center is a major institution working for justice across our region.

Alan Gumbel, Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce, Memphis, Tennessee: Alan Gumbel is a long-time Delta regional advocates and does vital work on the vital issue of promoting a well-trained and competitive workforce.

Leslie Durham, DRA Designee for Gov. John Bel Edwards, based in the heartland Delta community of St. Joseph, Louisiana; the DRA is a federal-state agency and does a wide variety of constructive projects on job creation, workforce development, health care, infrastructure and other key issues for the region’s community and economic development.

Millie Atkins, Delta Caucus board member, long-time Delta regional advocate and community leader in Monroe, Louisiana: Ms. Atkins will address a number of infrastructure issues from the standpoint of Louisiana, including flooding that has become so much worse in our region in recent years.

Desha County Judge Richard Tyndall, southeast Arkansas–who will address the serious flooding damage in some areas of his county and how flood control is inter-related across the region. If a levee breaks in one place it of course has an impact on communities downstream. When the Arkansas River was flooding this year, the fact that the Mississippi River was also at a high level meant that the Arkansas levels could not go down as rapidly.

Rep. Chris Richey, based in Helena, represents a state legislative district in the heart of the Delta—Rep. Richey will address the range of infrastructure issues from his standpoint as a state legislator in Arkansas. We are happy to report that the state government is engaged in a variety of constructive activities in the Arkansas Works health insurance program that has brought health coverage to over a quarter of a million Arkansans, education and workforce development, broadband access expansion, transportation improvements with increases in funding for highways, and other bipartisan initiatives. We are frankly getting a lot more done at the state and local than at the federal level nowadays.

National Cold War Museum project in Blytheville, Arkansas at the old Blytheville Air Force Base—this project is a great example of the potential for Delta Heritage tourism to promote economic development by bringing in tourist dollars, while educating people about our region’s legacy. Blytheville Air Force Base was a major facility during the Cold War, and we will have a speaker from the city’s supporters (we understand it will be Elizabeth Smith of the Blytheville Area Chamber of Commerce) of this great proposal.

Tomiko Townley, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance Director of Advocacy—Ms. Townley will give us an update on the state of hunger and nutrition in Arkansas, including efforts to help victims of the Arkansas River’s flooding this year through the disaster program of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Arkansas Rice Growers Association speaker—Arkansas is by far the leading rice producer in America, growing approximately half of America’s rice each year, and Mississippi, Louisiana and Missouri are also among the highest ranking rice producers. We will have a speaker from the Arkansas Rice Growers Association to give us an update on the rice industry, including the impact of flooding on this year’s rice crop.

Rep. Andrew Collins, Little Rock: Rep. Collins’ district in Little Rock suffered significant flooding from the Arkansas River this year and he is integrally involved in improving the flood control infrastructure. Rep. Collins is supportive of our efforts to continue and expand the collaboration and partnership between Little Rock and the adjacent east Arkansas Delta heartland.

International visitors—we always are glad to welcome groups of international visitors arranged by Toni Carr, Executive Director of the Global Ties Arkansas organization that brings leaders from across the globe to Arkansas to learn about our state, region and country. This year we understand we will have visitors from the Phillippines, Cambodia, Russia, and Georgia (the Georgia in Asia, not the one around Atlanta).

We are working on many other speakers and the program will be put together in early October.

V. CRUCIAL NEED FOR A UNIFYING, INCLUSIVE REGIONAL APPROACH IN THE DELTA

We would like to appeal once again—as we have throughout our history going back to the 1990s–for unity and finding common ground to speak as much as possible for a broad consensus of many voices all across the region.

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Two Upcoming Delta Events: Annual Little Rock Conference on Nov. 7-8, 2019; & May, 2020 on 20th Anniversary of Delta Vision, Delta Voices Event

Posted on August 06, 2019 at 01:57 PM

The Delta Caucus will hold our annual Greater Delta Region conference in Little Rock on Nov. 7-8, 2019 to focus on job creation, transportation, levee improvements and flood control, housing and other infrastructure, job creation and other community and economic development initiatives for the region from southern Missouri and Illinois to New Orleans.

There is another very special occasion coming up on May 28-29, 2020 at the Clinton Library Great Hall in Little Rock: on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Clinton administration’s bipartisan Delta Vision, Delta Voices conference in Washington, DC, we will hold a conference to develop policy actions, urge the powers that be to take more effective action for the community and economic development of our region, and look forward to advocacy in 2020 and into the future.

The Delta Caucus usually does not organize and promote events this far ahead of time, but the May 28-29, 2020 event is a very special conference that will be on a larger scale than many of our other events. While we certainly want to look back upon what has worked well for the Delta the past 20 years as well as our remaining challenges, the focus is looking forward to urging action and progress now and in the future. We will be continuing to advocate for economic progress and developing policy actions with that goal always in mind.

We have consulted with many leaders who were involved in the 2000 Delta Vision, Delta Voices conference and have continued to work tirelessly for the Delta region’s development every day since then, as well as new partners like Rupa Dash, CEO of the World Woman Federation, who is a dynamic advocate for women’s issues in the Delta region and across the country.

Other key partners for the May, 2020 Delta event include:

–Wilson Golden, Clinton administration Presidential appointee and currently board member of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation in Jackson, Mississippi;

–Bill Bynum, CEO, HOPE Credit Union and Enterprise Corp., a key participant in the Clinton administration’s bipartisan effort and leader of a tremendously productive foundation in our region;

–other corporations, foundations and universities and colleges;

–Brad Cole, executive director of the Illinois Municipal League;

–Mike Marshall, executive director of the Sikeston, Missouri Regional Chamber of Commerce and formerly Delta Regional Authority (DRA) Alternate Federal Co-Chairman;

–Mayor Kevin Smith of Helena, Arkansas, long-time Delta regional advocate;

–Kay Goss, President Clinton’s Associate Director of FEMA and a nationally recognized expert on disaster relief;

–Randy Henderson, Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas, Blytheville, AR–Nucor is a key regional leader of the Delta and their northeast Arkansas plant is a world-class steel mill in the heart of the Delta;

–Harvey Joe Sanner, president of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas;

–Millie Atkins, long-time Delta regional advocate in Monroe, Louisiana;

–Alan Gumbel, Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce in Memphis, Tennessee, and

–many others across the region, in Washington, DC and elsewhere we will be working with in the coming months.

We will be inviting President Clinton to speak at the May 29, 2020 Clinton Library event. He does not confirm until much later in the process, of course. We have also greatly appreciated Chelsea Clinton’s strong interest in the Delta. She gave a great presentation at our conference in 2017 and she of course is the future of the Clinton Foundation and a dynamic leader in her own right.

We will be inviting many of our other long-time key partners and are hearing from more and more of them all the time. We have invited former US Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater and many other high-level officials who participated at the 2000 conference and have longstanding ties to the Greater Delta Region. We will keep you posted as we continue to prepare for this special occasion at the Clinton Library in May, 2020. We have reserved the Clinton Library Great Hall for May 29, 2020.

At the May, 2020 conference, we will make a series of announcements from corporations, foundations and other institutions in the region regarding funding for community and economic development programs in the vast region of 8 states and 10 million people.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. SCHEDULE FOR NOV. 7-8, 2019 CONFERENCE THIS FALL

B. SCHEDULE FOR MAY 28-29, 2020 CONFERENCE COMMEMORATING THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE DELTA VISION, DELTA VOICES CONFERENCE IN 2000

C. KEY ISSUES FOR NOV. 7-8, 2019 CONFERENCE, including a pro-active approach to flood control

Here are the two schedules for the two conferences this fall and next spring:

A. Schedule for Annual Delta Conference in Little Rock, Nov. 7-8, 2019

OPENING SESSION—Thursday evening, Nov. 7, 2019, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Arkansas State Capitol Rotunda

FRIDAY MORNING AND LUNCH: Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Robinson Center Ballroom overlooking the Arkansas River

(Please note: this is the first time we will be convening in the Robinson Center facility and this will make a good change of pace.)

B. Schedule–“The Delta in 2020 and Beyond: on the 20th Anniversary of the Delta Vision, Delta Voices Conference in Washington, DC”

OPENING SESSION—Thursday, May 28, 2020, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Arkansas Capitol Rotunda

MAIN SESSION—Friday morning and lunch, May 29, 2020, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Clinton Library Great Hall

C. KEY ISSUES FOR NOV. 7-8, 2019 CONFERENCE—including levee improvements and pro-active approach to flood control

We will highlight a broad range of infrastructure issues in transportation, flood control, broadband access, housing and related subjects, as well as the key issues we always include of job creation at good wages, health care, nutrition and other USDA programs, Delta heritage tourism and other community and economic development initiatives.

Importance of developing a pro-active, long term response to levee improvements and other flood control measures: Flooding has become worse in our region in recent years and likely will continue to become worse each year into the future. This requires a pro-active, long term response with preparation and action before the disasters strike, rather than reacting after the next flood begins.

There has been flooding in varying degrees all across the region this year. We will focus on all the major rivers across the region: the Mississippi, Arkansas, Ohio, White and other tributaries. These issues are inter-related: if a levee breaks at one point it has an impact on communities downstream. The Mississippi River was at a high level when the Arkansas River flooded this year, thus preventing the Arkansas from flowing as quickly into the Mississippi and thus reducing its water levels.

Flooding is increasingly worse as time goes along:

· January to May, 2019 was the wettest five-month period in history

· numerous cities along the Mississippi River experienced the worst flooding in 50 years

· flooding has caused other problems like obstructing barge traffic on the Mississippi, where grain unloaded at ports on the river were down 15% from last year as of the late spring

· many farmers lost a season of planting.

We are gathering information and policy recommendations from many leaders in our network, including Kay Goss, former Associate Director of FEMA and a nationally recognized expert in disaster relief. Our partners with extensive experience in flooding issues emphasize several key points, including: the Corps of Engineers should be funded specifically to assess the levees in the Mississippi and Arkansas River basins, while the National Flood Insurance managed by FEMA should be re-authorized for the long-term, at least a year at a time or longer, if possible. A Congressional re-authorization in the spring was only for two weeks. The state and local entities need more help than this, and for a realistic timeframe.

Levee review task force in Arkansas: In Arkansas, we have appreciated Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s leadership in forming a state levee review task force and requesting $10 million for levee repairs from the recent damage caused by Arkansas River flooding. FEMA and other entities will have to contribute much more than the $10 million, but that is a good start.

Several Delta Caucus partners are serving on the levee task force and we have been sending feedback and recommendations to the governor’s office, state legislators, county judges, mayors and others involved in flood control.

Many of the levees in Arkansas have been in inadequate condition for many years. Many of them held during the recent flooding but some did not, and some held by the narrowest margins. The Corps of Engineers assesses many levees as in “unacceptable condition,” with problems of internal drainage, encroachment, inactive levee boards and other issues.

Importance of state oversight of local levee boards: State legislation passed in 2016 took steps in the right direction in authorizing county judges to appoint members to inactive levee boards, and requiring county clerks to send annual reports to the Natural Resources Commission. Our colleagues have extensive experience with the rivers from Little Rock to the Mississippi, and they emphasize that some vacancies on boards are still not filled, while some boards are not filing reports as they should.

Our colleagues support a recommendation that a state government entity should enforce compliance with these requirements and add “more teeth in the rules that require accountability.” The state entity could be in either the Department of Emergency Management, the Natural Resources Commission, or another state agency, providing local entities with more oversight.

Some partners with experience in flooding issues have pointed out that the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) has extensive experience with disasters and thus would make a good choice as the state agency with oversight authority over the local boards.

On the other hand, if a strong consensus develops in favor of the Natural Resources Commission, that is another alternative. Getting some state oversight will be essential to remove the patchwork quality that exists today where some local levee boards do a good job, some are barely adequate, and others are deficient.

Flood control improvements require interlocking contributions from federal, state and local levels: Again, we know how these federal, state and local issues are interlocking. Some levee boards naturally do a much better job than others. Another complication is that the Corps may not provide technical aid and repair funding when the levees do not meet the “minimally acceptable” standard. We support repairing the existing damage and then putting in place compliance procedures to prevent the many oversights that have caused so many problems for too many levees.

Key—build the levees back stronger than they were before, not just to the same level: Former Associate FEMA Director Kay Goss recalls that Arkansas did a full-scale review of all its bridges after the deadly Mississippi River Bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007, and now is the perfect time to partner with the Corps of Engineers to assess the viability of levees throughout the state. Disaster funding from all levels coming into the state after the recent floods should be used to build the levees back stronger–not just back to the level at the time of the disaster, a typical weakness in many states receiving disaster assistance.

There has unfortunately been a widespread pattern that flooding receives major attention at the time of a disaster, but as time goes on, complacency sets in and the issue loses focus as a top priority. We support the establishment of the current state levee task force as a long-term effort, far beyond its initial report, limited funding, and hoping the next disaster is a long way off.

It would be beneficial to pass a grant program to provide matching state funds, and most of all having the task force remain in operation until issues with currently unacceptable levees and inactive levee boards are corrected. Of course, we have to get the levees to acceptable Corps requirements so that repairs and maintenance can be provided by the Corps in the future.

We appreciate Gov. Hutchinson’s foresight in forming the state levee review task force, and this likely would be a good model for the other Delta states to follow.

In addition to the levees, pumps in many local areas are old and in need of repair. Mayor Kevin Smith of Helena, Arkansas indicated that the levees in his area are solid, but his pumps are old. This would not require a huge amount of funding to update the pumps. Mayor Smith estimated that probably about $150,000 or so would be very helpful for the pumps improvement.

We encourage officials at all levels, home and business owners all across the region to consult the FEMA website and check the status of flood insurance maps in your local area.

Please check the FEMA Flood Map Service Center website to see if your flood maps have been updated. Let’s avoid what happened in a Florida community where 80% of the homes and businesses that were destroyed were uninsured because FEMA placed them in flood zone “X” maps–areas that have low to moderate risks for flooding.

Please stay informed about the condition of the flood maps in your area in the Delta region. Our flooding except in south Louisiana is of course from rivers rather than the coastal flooding in Florida, but many of our areas are at risk as well, as you know.

Let’s work to keep home-owners and business owners informed about the need for flood insurance in your local area in the Delta.

FEMA acknowledges that the maps need updating and states that it is working on doing so.

By statute the maps are supposed to be updated every five years, but a chronic funding shortfall has prevented that from happening. FEMA’s debt was $20.5 billion as of December, 2018. It is unfortunately still low on Congress’ priorities, with the latest proposal being another stop-gap reauthorization and not full funding. Contact your Member of Congress about the great importance of this issue.

Go on the FEMA Flood Map Service Center website today and see where your local area stands regarding flood maps.

REGISTRATION FEES FOR NOV. 7-8, 2019 CONFERENCE IN LITTLE ROCK

You register by paying the registration fees.

Registration fees are $100 each, or $75 for those who have paid their annual dues for the 2019 calendar year.

We offer substantial group discounts if you can get together a group of four or five people or more.

The fastest and easiest way to pay the registration fees is to go on the website at mdgc.us and go to the PayPal link at the top of the site that says “Donate.” This accepts debit and credit cards.

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, Maryland 20601

Late registration fees increase to $125 after October 24.

GROUP HOTEL

We have a group hotel discount at the Holiday Inn Presidential for the night of Nov. 7 of $89, which is a low rate for a good hotel in the Little Rock River Market district.

To get the group discount, call the hotel at (501) 375-2100 and say you are with the Delta Caucus group.

Thanks very much—Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus, Inc. (202) 360-6347

Rice Industry Expansion in the Delta & Legacy of Constructive Policies Engineered by former US Rep. Bill Alexander

Posted on June 19, 2019 at 02:53 PM

The Delta Caucus urges the Trump administration and Congress to preserve the tremendously important trade ties the United States holds with Mexico and Canada, as well as opening up new markets in Cuba and China. In doing so we would like to recall the leadership in trade and economic policies of former Congressman Bill Alexander of Arkansas.

Below is a policy memorandum that was distributed by the Delta Grassroots Caucus at our regional economic development conference at Arkansas State University Mid-South in West Memphis, Arkansas on April 25-26, 2019. The memo summarizes the tremendous expansion of the Delta rice industry generated by bipartisan legislation sponsored by Congressman Alexander beginning in the 1970s. This economic success story continues to be a major economic plus for our region today.

We had a total of 140 participants for all or parts of the conference from the 8-state Greater Delta Region from southern Illinois and Missouri down through western Kentucky and Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi to New Orleans, Louisiana and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt, as well as representatives from as far away as Washington, DC, Georgia, Florida and Texas.

The memo describes the huge expansion of the rice industry in Arkansas and the Delta region generated by innovative legislation sponsored by Congressman Alexander of Arkansas (with bipartisan support in Congress) beginning in the 1970s, leading Arkansas to become by far the leading rice producing state in America and the Delta the largest rice-producing region in our country.

The memo proceeds to advocate for wise farm trade policies supported by Rep. Alexander during his tenure in Congress and now being advocated by many leaders from both parties today in favor of maintaining and expanding our export markets to Mexico and Canada, as well as opening up trade to Cuba and the massive market of China. (Editor’s note–Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus)

An Economic Success Story Led by Congressman Bill Alexander: Arkansas and the Delta Rank as the Top Rice Producing-Region in America

April 25-26, 2019 Delta Regional Conference at ASU Mid-South in West Memphis, Arkansas

Arkansas is by far the leading rice-producing state in America, growing approximately half of the rice in the USA, with Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri ranking in the top six rice producers along with California and Texas. This is a major economic success story for the Greater Delta Region

Arkansas’ rice boom began in the 1970s, when federal legislation in 1970 and again in 1976 sponsored by then US Rep. Bill Alexander of Arkansas’ First District lifted controls on rice production in the earlier allotment program, opening up rice farming to many new producers. While we all know about economic challenges in our region, we have also had successes and the Delta rice boom in recent history is a major accomplishment.

Rep. Alexander worked with a bipartisan group in Congress to pass the legislation expanding opportunities for more rice farmers. From about 500,000 acres in 1970, Arkansas became the country’s leading producer in 1973 and the rice expansion kept gathering momentum for the long term:

–Arkansas rice acreage tripled from 1970 to 1981 from 500,000 to 1.54 million harvested acres.

–Arkansas set a record of 1.785 million acres in 2010, and for the past half century it has led the nation and continues to do so every year with about 1.161 million acres planted in 2017.

–Today, the rice industry contributes more than $6 billion annually to the state’s economy and accounts for about 25,000 jobs, primarily in the east Arkansas Delta region.

–Arkansas has 2,500 rice farms and 96% of them are family-owned. The state’s farmers produce 9 billion pounds of rice, which is the state’s second highest value commodity and its top agricultural export.

In 1979 when the Delta rice boom was in full swing, a USDA report explained that planting was restrained by government programs from 1955 to 1973 to prevent huge surpluses. In the 1970s, Rep. Alexander worked with Members of Congress from both parties in passing legislation suspending marketing quotas “resulting in a sharp rise in national acreage,” according to USDA.

Acreage more than doubled in northeast Arkansas from 1973 to 1978 and a similar major expansion also took place across much of the rest of the Mississippi Delta” including Mississippi, Louisiana and southeast Missouri.

Earlier government policies restricted production to farmers who had allotments and placed controls on who could plant it and how much. Alexander’s legislation opened up rice production to many new growers and the Delta economy has benefited ever since. We need to follow up on those lasting gains by pursuing constructive policies now especially in safeguarding and expanding rice exports.

Opening up trade to Cuba: Cuba is an agricultural market estimated at about $2 billion for all products. They consume large amounts of rice, and Delta farmers are uniquely positioned by quality, high production, and lower transportation costs to defeat any other nation for this market. The embargo has existed 50 years without undermining the Cuban dictatorship and has only harmed our producers. The best way to undermine the authoritarian regime is to show them the benefits of free enterprise and our great products like rice and poultry.

Harvey Joe Sanner, long-time farm activist in east Arkansas, participant in the Tractorcade of the 1970s, and president of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas praised Congressman Alexander’s tremendous accomplishments in expanding the Delta rice industry, as well as his foresight in leading the charge in favor of expanded markets to Mexico, Cuba, and the rest of the world.

Looking back on Alexander’s statesmanlike accomplishments in a comment on June 20, 2019, Sanner said: “Bill Alexander had foresight and the political ability to accomplish legislative action that benefitted his part of the world. Both vision and ability are necessary and one without the other is little more than political rhetoric. Representative Alexander wasn’t about rhetoric, he was about action and he had the political courage to speak up for his district even when it meant standing up to the rich and powerful opposition.”

Need to avoid trade wars, expand into the China market, and protect our exports to to Mexico and Canada: Many economists have warned of the potential damaging impact if countries retaliate against the US for trade barriers imposed by the Trump administration—estimated losses would include a reduction in US rice production by more than $151 million due to a combination of lower producer prices and output. We urge the administration and Congress to avoid escalating tariff wars, maintain our trade with Mexico and Canada, and open up markets in China and elsewhere.

Gov. Hutchinson's Great Leadership for Environmental Preservation for the Buffalo River

Posted on June 15, 2019 at 01:07 PM

The Delta Caucus partners are strong advocates for environmental preservation. Therefore, we were immensely pleased by a recent victory for the environment: Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a $6.2 million buyout of a hog farm that was unfortunately placed in the Buffalo River Watershed and risked pollution of this national treasure.

Moreover, the governor also stated that a temporary ban on large-scale hog farms in the Buffalo River watershed should be made permanent.

Many people in the Delta region and across the country were concerned that the farm hog would produce E. coli in this majestic river. There was the risk that hog waste could lead to accumulation of bacteria downstream in the Buffalo.

Gov. Hutchinson’s follows in the great tradition of an earlier generation of environmental leaders who championed the Buffalo when it faced a threat of pollution back in the 1960s and 1970:

Senator J. William Fulbright sponsored legislation beginning in the 1960s to preserve the beautiful Buffalo against the intrusion of dams and business developments that were creating unacceptable risks of pollution. Fulbright enlisted the aid of many other national leaders from both parties, including Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt (R-AR), Senator John McClellan (D-Ar), Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, US Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, the famous artist William Hart Benton, and many others.

Fulbright’s efforts culminated in the passage of legislation in 1972 designating the Buffalo as America’s first national river. Delta Caucus Director Lee Powell knew Fulbright for 20 years and is the author of a comprehensive biography (J. William Fulbright and His Time, published in 1995 with a Foreword by President William Jefferson Clinton)m and on behalf of the Delta Caucus wrote a letter to Gov. Hutchinson praising his efforts to continue the earlier generation of leaders’ work in preserving the iconic Buffalo River (letter is below in this message):

The owners of C & H Hog Farms had followed all the proper legal actions in applying for their permit for the farm. A state agency, however, erred in allowing a farm producing large levels of hog waste to be located so close to the Buffalo. Gov. Hutchinson’s action corrects this error while being fair to the farmers.

The geographical area involved is slightly farther west of the Delta, but many people from our region travel there every year, as do tourists from all over the country and over the world. All Americans should be delighted that we will be able to see the beauties of the Buffalo for generations to come.

(Delta Caucus letter to Gov. Hutchinson, June 14, 2019)

Delta Grassroots Caucus

June 14, 2019

Dear Governor Hutchinson:

As supporters of environmental preservation in Arkansas, the Delta Caucus would like to extend our profound appreciation to you and the State of Arkansas for the buyout of C & H Hog Farms as a great victory for supporters of the Buffalo River and environmentalists across the country.

As a biographer and friend of the late, great Senator J. William Fulbright, I know he would be tremendously proud of you for taking action to preserve the national treasure of the Buffalo River. Senator Fulbright championed the cause of the Buffalo in the 1960s and 1970s, when dam construction and development projects led to excessive sewage and environmental concerns for the river. Fulbright endorsed National Park Service status for the river as early as 1961 and introduced legislation in 1967 to make the Buffalo a National River. In 1972 Congress made the Buffalo the first river in the USA to be designated as a national river.

Your action preserves and builds upon the work of earlier advocates for this iconic natural treasure, including J. William Fulbright, Senator John McClellan, Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, the great painter Thomas Hart Benton, and many other champions of the Buffalo River.

You are absolutely correct that the permit to C & H Hog Farms should never have been granted. We also understand that the farmers followed all the legal steps and did nothing wrong. It is just that they are being treated fairly in your wise action.

Countless people from the Delta region and across the country visit the Buffalo River every year. This is a decision that all Arkansans and environmentalists everywhere will appreciate from this day forward.

As a result of your leadership, we are confident that the Buffalo River will not suffer environmental degradation, and Americans will be able to witness the majestic scenery of this national treasure for many generations to come. We know you will continue to keep a watchful eye over the completion of this endeavor in the months and years ahead.

Please know that Senator Fulbright and the earlier generation of champions for the Buffalo River are looking upon you with tremendous pride and appreciation today.

Lee Riley Powell, Executive Director, on behalf of the Delta Grassroots Caucus

Background of the original effort to preserve the Buffalo River

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Army Corps of Engineers began building dams that created many large lakes in Arkansas that supplied electricity and flood control, as well as the growth of large real estate investment projects. Some of the lakes began having problems with boat traffic jams and excessive sewage caused in part by the presence of too many septic tanks. Despite these environmental concerns, promoters in the 1960s and 1970s encouraged the Corps to dam more and more free-flowing streams. The influx of retirees from the North encouraged the promoters in their business ventures.

The Buffalo River was one of the major free-flowing streams in Arkansas, and it provided spectacular scenery as it passed through the heart of the Ozark Mountains. Environmentalists from all over the country supported the efforts of Fulbright and others to preserve the river. Justice William O. Douglas floated down the river in a canoe and afterward exclaimed that “it is worth fighting to the death to preserve.” Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall called it a “national treasure.”

The business promoters nonetheless persisted in their narrow focus on development projects, and the US House of Representatives–unfortunately including many in the Arkansas House delegation–endorsed the proposal for yet another dam.

Fulbright found allies in Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt, a Republican representing the northwest Arkansas district, Sen. John McClellan–and won the unlikely support of Gov. Orval Faubus, with whom Fulbright had always held a difficult relationship. With Faubus’ surprising endorsement, Fulbright fought for a bill giving National Parks service to the river, and in 1972 the bill passed and the Buffalo became America’s first National River. (see Lee Riley Powell, J. William Fulbright and His Time, page 451)

The C & H Hog Farm presented a different but nonetheless serious threat to the Buffalo River. The Delta Caucus joins environmentalists across the globe in praising Gov. Asa Hutchinson for this action to remove the threat of pollution presented by a large hog farm in the river’s watershed.