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 Vision, Delta Voices”

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Statements from Governors of the seven Delta States

Governor Mike Huckabee, Arkansas

Governor Don Sundquist, Tennessee

Governor David Ronald Musgrove, Mississippi

Governor M.J. “Mike” Foster, Louisiana

Governor Mel Carnahan, Missouri

Governor George H. Ryan, Illinois

Governor Paul E. Patton, Kentucky

Statements from Members of Congress from the Delta

U.S. Senator Blanche Lambert Lincoln, Arkansas

U.S. Senator Bill Frist, Tennessee

U.S. Senator Tim Hutchinson, Arkansas

U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana

U.S. Representative Marion Berry, Arkansas

U.S. Representative Jo Ann Emerson, Missouri

U.S. Representative Bennie G. Thompson, Mississippi

U.S. Representative John Tanner, Tennessee

Grassroots organizations from the Delta

Delta Caucus

Kellogg Foundation Mid-South Delta Initiative

Delta Council of Mississippi

Southern Empowerment Zones/Enterprise Communities Forum

Delta Compact

Statement of J. Wayne Leonard, Chief Executive Officer of Entergy Corporation and Chair, Delta BusinessLinc

Mississippi County, Arkansas Gateway Committee: An Economic Transition Story

Delta Race Relations Consortium

Mid-South Delta Local Initiatives Support Corporation

National Mississippi River Museum Proposal, Tulane-Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research

The Nature Conservancy: Statement of the Mississippi River Project Director Cynthia Brown

Lower Mississippi Delta Development Center—The Importance of Natural Resources to the Delta

Southeast Missouri Enterprise Community Statement

A view from the Kentucky Delta—City Commissioner Robert Coleman, Paducah, Kentucky

The InterState-69 Initiative

Zachary Taylor Parkway Commission, Louisiana

The Marketing Loan Concept: One Answer to the Farm Crisis

Farm Bureau Statement

Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program Farmers’ Market Program

Summaries of Delta Initiative Listening Sessions, Fall 1999


Governor Mike Huckabee
Republican, Arkansas

I’ve asked 12 Arkansans to serve on the Governor’s Arkansas Delta Development Initiative work group. This work group will join key state agency directors and legislators in recommending legislation needed to address the social and economic needs of the Arkansas Delta. The main goal of the ADDI work group is to develop legislation for the 2001 legislative session that will improve the quality of life and eliminate poverty in the 42 Arkansas counties that were part of the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Act. The Delta region has enormous natural resources as well as a deep cultural heritage. The land in the Delta was once the most productive in the state because of abundant timber, water and other natural resources. Delta residents have always faced the hardship of poverty with a strong work ethic and eternal hope. I’m committed to helping them gain the tools needed to further improve education, health care, economic development, housing and transportation. The ADDI work group will be the first state legislative effort addressing significant issues in the Delta, and it will be designed to complement federal initiatives.

The Delta is not a rich area if your way of measuring things consists of looking at statistics on per capita income and median family income. But the region is rich in so many other, more important ways. It’s an area where families are still a vital part of the social fabric, a place where grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles often are still close by. It’s an area where going to church on Sunday is still considered the norm rather than the exception. It’s second nature in the Delta for parents to leave work early to watch their children perform in school plays, play in the band or compete on the football team. It’s not considered unusual to check on your neighbors there and pick up their mail and newspapers when they’re out of town. People in the Delta have a strong sense of history, a sense of continuity, a sense of place.

Now, we must build on those strengths. We can’t alter our past. We can, however, set the stage for a prosperous future in the Delta. If those of us in public service will provide the proper leadership, Delta residents will work together to pull themselves up in the national rankings. For too long, officeholders have been guilty of looking to the next election rather than the next generation. We must now look more than two or three years down the road. We must do things that will make one of the unhealthiest populations in the country one of the healthiest. We must also find ways to attract high-tech, knowledge-based industries to the Delta and prepare our people for the kinds of jobs that won’t be leaving for south of the border. We must bring the Delta out of poverty and not just repeat the empty rhetoric Delta residents have grown tired of hearing. The problems of the Delta no longer can be ignored by any American, no matter where he or she might live. A lot of this will take time. Politicians like to be able to point to concrete accomplishments—buildings constructed, roads built—and some of these efforts might not be noticed until today’s Delta children become healthy, contributing adults. What we must convince ourselves of is that a much better Delta is not beyond our reach. We have the ability to make changes that will allow us in our old age to look back at this period and be able to say it was time well-spent.

Governor Don Sundquist
Republican, Tennessee

Economic development has always been one of my top priorities. I welcome the opportunity to bring private industry and the community together to work with our federal, state and local governments in the name of economic progress. I have seen the progress such partnerships have afforded our country’s Appalachian region and believe the same can happen in our Mississippi Delta. That is why I support legislation to create the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) in the seven states along the lower Mississippi River.

During my 12 years in Congress I represented portions of the Delta region in Tennessee and as Governor I represent them all. I know firsthand the obstacles that prevent this region and its people from achieving their full potential. The special assistance that the DRA would offer is necessary for the region to fully enter the mainstream of the nation’s economy.

The success of the Appalachian Regional Commission offers a wonderful model for the DRA. As Governor, I have been intimately involved in the Appalachian program and can attest that it has effectively brought together the federal, state, and local governments and the private sector. Instead of dictates from Washington, these parties have worked together to set up spending priorities and bring realistic programs to our citizens. Economically distressed counties in Appalachian Tennessee have decreased from 37 prior to the formation of the Appalachian Commission to 10 today. Income levels have increased from 68 percent of the national average to over 81 percent. Poverty rates have been reduced by more than half.

The same opportunities exist in the Delta region, and the DRA can be instrumental in bringing about meaningful change.

In Tennessee, ARC funds have been used to bring in industry as well as address fundamental quality-of-life issues. We have, for example, used ARC funds to bring municipal water to rural populations that had for years relied on drinking water from wells and springs contaminated by agricultural runoff. We brought municipal sewage service to small towns where failed or deteriorated septic tanks seeped raw sewage onto the ground’s surface. We constructed adult learning facilities that have taught marketable skills to previously unskilled workers. We developed primary health care facilities in areas where none existed.

These are but a few of the examples of how ARC funds have been used in Tennessee. The Delta region of Tennessee deserves no less. The problems that we have faced in Appalachia also exist in West Tennessee. Of Tennessee’s 21 Delta counties, seven would be classified as economically distressed under the ARC criteria. There is significant unemployment and underemployment. Public infrastructure is inadequate to afford our citizens an acceptable quality of life or the means for economic growth. Levels of health and educational attainment are below where they should be.

For these reasons, I offer my support for the Delta Initiatives and the creation of the Delta Regional Authority. It is my hope that we can work together to realize the enormous potential of the Delta and its people.

Governor David Ronald Musgrove
Democrat, Mississippi

One Mississippi Delta writer speaks of the dirt road he saw from his grandmother’s window—a road he thought led to nowhere. Half a century later, we continue to struggle valiantly, sometimes desperately, to see prosperity at the end of our Delta roads. A critical need exists in the Delta for renewal and revitalization of the economic, physical and social environments. Beyond this, or perhaps more accurately stated, blanketing these efforts must be a renewal of the spirit, which allows us to build, to broaden and to bridge. In some way, by some strand, we are each connected to the Delta. It is through that commonality, we must find a way to share a newfound strength and a contagious determination that says, “we can do” in the Delta, a strength that will make no allowances for “we tried.”

While much of our nation, indeed part of our state, has experienced growth over the last decade, many Delta communities have not participated fully in our newly found prosperity. By partnering with other states, and by working with local leaders, we can create community-based development and tackle the toughest challenges facing Delta counties today.

Water sewer issues. Housing. Roads. Transit. Child care. Education. Training. Job creation. Job retention. These are not the subjects for years after years of patchwork programs that provide only temporary fixes. And they are not the subjects for empty promises and political rhetoric. Our people deserve long-term solutions based on responsible, long-range planning.

To become competitive, we must develop cooperation. To promote investment, we must demand accountability. To drive growth, we must work determinedly. This is not just about the Delta—this is about who we are and who we dare to become as a nation. Working together, we can develop a road map for the future of Mississippi that benefits all of us.


As all of you are well aware, the lower Mississippi Delta continues to have the largest concentration of high unemployment and poverty in the United States. This is unacceptable. The people of the Delta are a valuable resource. They have seen the Delta area change from an agricultural giant to an area of extremely high poverty and unemployment.

A plan of action which has accountability built into it needs to be developed. It is important that the governor of each state in the Delta has input into the formation of this plan on behalf of the citizens of his state. Each state should have a Delta commission to help develop goals and strategy and to coordinate with the other states for a regional approach to improving the quality of life for the residents of the Delta. Changes in the entire Delta region must be monitored to determine if programs are working or not. Without a coordinated effort, it is likely that we will continue on the same path we have followed for too many years without knowing until it is too late if we are making a difference.

Any organization selected to coordinate the activity of the Delta should be located in the Delta region and not in Washington, if it is to achieve the most beneficial results. We cannot accept the current conditions in the Delta, and a regional concept will be the most effective in implementing change.


I appreciate the opportunity to highlight the issues affecting Southeast Missouri, as well as our meaningful efforts to improve the region’s quality of life and economic vitality. Our initiatives toward building a more prosperous Southeast Missouri may serve as examples for addressing the issues impacting the Mississippi Delta region. We have joined hands with the communities in Southeast Missouri to focus our efforts to address three major issues: education and adult literacy; economic and community development; and agriculture.

Education and Adult Literacy

Missouri’s Outstanding Schools Act of 1993 resulted in a new Foundation Program formula that improved the equity of funding among all school districts. In this school year alone, 55 school districts in 12 Southeast Missouri counties will receive over $42 million more in basic state aid. Total funding for the program has increased by nearly $1 billion since its inception.

The Outstanding Schools Act also initiated Missouri’s A+ Schools program. The program sets high standards for schools and gives young people the opportunity to earn a full scholarship to a Missouri community college or technical school. Participating schools have lower dropout rates, improved academic achievement, better attendance and fewer discipline problems. For many families with limited financial means in Southeast Missouri, the A+ Schools program may be the only opportunity for their children to further their education beyond high school. Recognizing Southeast Missouri’s need to boost adult literacy and improve basic academic skills, we have been aggressive in promoting adult basic education programs. In February, the U.S. Department of Education recognized Cape Girardeau’s Adult Basic Education program as one of the nation’s top ten outstanding adult education and literacy programs. This program serves nearly 1,400 people in a five-county region.

Economic and Community Development

Over the past seven years, the Missouri Department of Economic Development has invested more than $71 million in initiatives to help locate new and expanding businesses in Southeast Missouri and to improve the critical infrastructure in the region’s communities. In addition to partnering with such firms as Procter and Gamble and Good Humor/Breyers Ice Cream to expand the employment base in the region, our efforts have included micro-enterprise initiatives designed to help small businesses grow and be more competitive. To help workers remain competitive in the marketplace, we have initiated skill-based customized training programs in conjunction with many of the region’s employers.

Recognizing that neighborhood vitality is essential to a community’s quality of life, Missouri is fostering state-local-federal partnerships to improve neighborhoods by rehabilitating homes and improving infrastructure, such as water and waste water systems. Our combined efforts are providing resources for the development of affordable housing, the preservation of neighborhoods, and a greater emphasis on building new community leadership.


Until the world market becomes a level playing field for agricultural trade, we must help our farmers by giving them access to capital and resources to produce and market their products.

Missouri has initiated a “one-stop” center to help boost the state’s farm economy. The establishment of the Agricultural Innovation Center within the Missouri Department of Agriculture will provide information and assistance to help farmers implement new and innovative methods of raising, processing, and marketing their products.

I have also called upon the Legislature to increase state funding to further implement value-added programs, including loans, grants and tax credits that enable farmers to add value to their raw commodities and earn more for their products.

Southeast Missouri is known for its fertile land which yields some of the most diverse agricultural products in the nation. Seven of the ten top crop-producing counties in the state are located in the area. Southeast Missouri family farmers are an admirably resilient and innovative group. Given the right tools, they will survive and prosper.

While significant strides have been made, there is still much work to be done. I offer my support for the Mississippi Delta Initiatives. It is my hope that through our partnership we will continue to improve the quality of life and economic vitality of the people and communities in Southeast Missouri and the Mississippi Delta region.


I would like to express my support for the Delta Regional Authority Act (SR1622, HR 2911). This legislation establishes the Delta Regional Authority to serve the needs of the 219 counties situated within the Lower Mississippi Delta region. Illinois is home to 16 counties within that region. All of the Delta counties, not just those in Illinois, have historically been underserved by critical infrastructure support, industrial development, access to educational opportunities and quality health care services. The Delta Regional Authority would assist in forming a cooperative entity between the federal and state governments, aimed toward providing much-needed resources and attention to this distressed area of the nation.

The federal programs and services introduced as a result of the Delta Regional Authority would interact with current and future state agency initiatives in Illinois. Therefore, we are working to develop our activities in anticipation of this legislation’s passage. I look forward to continuing to work with the President on this most important project.

Democrat, Kentucky

As Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, I strongly support the mission of and full Congressional funding for the Delta Regional Authority as recommended by President Clinton. This and other Delta regional initiatives promise expanded economic opportunity to individuals and their communities in the 21 Delta counties of Western Kentucky.

The Delta region of Kentucky, like each state within the Lower Mississippi Delta region, has its own unique problems and opportunities. While the region overall has experienced positive economic growth, some areas have been left behind. We must build upon our successes in the Delta region to ensure that all may enjoy the benefits of prosperity.

I envision the Delta Regional Authority as a partner to assist Kentucky’s ongoing efforts to improve the capacity of our people and their communities to participate and succeed in the emerging global economy. The new economy provides opportunities for those who are prepared to compete, but presents obstacles for those who are not.

The needs for developing Kentucky’s human capital in this region span a lifetime. We must emphasize early childhood development, including early access to health care and childcare, as well as early childhood education. We must increase our high school dropout prevention efforts and provide more vocation counseling for our future workforce. National research proves that the lack of a high school diploma greatly diminishes an individual’s earning potential and hampers the region’s potential to attract long-term, high wage jobs, both of which are crucial elements of sustained economic development. Adult literacy and job training programs must be increased to assure that every adult is functionally literate and possesses the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully participate in the workplace. Finally, all of our citizens—young or old—must have access to an effective health care system.

To build stronger communities in the Delta region of Western Kentucky, we must invest more in local infrastructure. Many households in our Delta communities are plagued by unsafe drinking water provided by failing systems, or do not have connections to waterlines in the first instance. Public health is also threatened where sewer systems are inadequate or nonexistent. Very few communities in the area have access to the Information Highway. Regional transportation priorities include improving important corridors such as U.S. 60, Great River Road (U.S. 51), and U.S. 68/KY 80. The future bodes well for Kentucky’s Delta region to become a national crossroads as proposals for Interstates 69 and 66 are discussed.

To address these vital issues affecting the lives of people and communities in our Delta region, the Commonwealth of Kentucky welcomes the opportunity to join with the other six Delta states as a full and active partner in support of the Delta Regional Authority and other important Delta economic initiatives.


Democrat, ARKANSAS

As the United States fortifies its workforce to compete in a global economy, improving opportunities in the Mississippi Delta region must be among our top priorities. Anyone who has traveled along the highways of the South recognizes that poverty and a lack of industrial opportunities have restrained the Delta in our nation’s endeavor to succeed.

The lower Mississippi Delta region, following the course of the Mississippi River, stretches from southern Illinois to the Delta of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. According to the latest Census figures, communities in the seven-state Delta region—Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana—face a poverty rate of 22% while the National average is at 12%.

I have introduced legislation, The Delta Regional Authority Act (S. 1622), to build on efforts begun more than a decade ago when Congress created the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission. Under the leadership of former Arkansas Senator Dale Bumpers, the Commission was charged with studying the unique problems of the Delta region and recommending a course of action. The Commission submitted its Report, “Realizing the Dream … Fulfilling the Potential,” in 1990. The Chairman of the Commission, former Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, called the Report a “handbook for action.”

The Report highlighted problems facing the Delta, whose economy has traditionally been based on agriculture. The Report noted the Delta faced high unemployment, low levels of income and education, welfare dependency, poor health care and housing, along with serious shortcomings in transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately, a decade after the Report was issued, these problems still exist because we have not done nearly enough. The Delta Regional Authority Act seeks to improve the infrastructure of the Delta region. It is common knowledge that when industries seek to expand and build new facilities, they look at the availability of roads, water systems and other basics. The federal government has tried to foster development in these areas by providing federal grant monies, but we haven’t approached the economic problems in the region with an appropriate understanding of the unique demographic and geographic challenges that face the Delta.

Education programs are available, but if there’s no technical assistance to help people actually access the grant resources, then the programs become wasted opportunities. We can encourage young folks to pursue higher education and start their own businesses, but if transportation and other resources are inadequate, how can they succeed? For instance, in many areas of the Arkansas Delta there are no copy shops, computer repair stores, or office supply stores. These basic offerings that we take for granted in more developed regions simply are not available. That is why creating a central location for technical assistance is so vital. We may not be able to put copy shops in every town, but we can provide help that will be only a phone call or an e-mail away.

Currently, many communities in the Delta have problems gaining federal grants for two reasons. First, they often don’t have the technical expertise to ensure that their grant applications will be competitive with those of larger cities. Second, they often don’t have enough local government or corporate resources to meet the local matching requirement. The Delta Regional Authority created by this legislation will authorize $30 million annually to provide technical assistance in the grant application process. Local communities across the seven state region will have one-stop shopping when they need assistance completing grant applications and accessing resources for economic development. Second, the Delta Regional Authority will be authorized to provide money to help grant applicants meet the federal match. Certainly the matching dollar requirement in the grant application process is important to demonstrate the community’s commitment to the project, but we shouldn’t exclude the very communities who need grant assistance the most.

As the majority of our country moves forward, I am hopeful the Delta Regional Authority Act will start the economic engine of the Mississippi Delta.

Republican, Tennessee

I was very excited when Senator Blanche Lambert Lincoln of Arkansas asked me to join her and our House colleagues in the introduction of S. 1622, the Delta Regional Authority Act. This important legislation sends the message to the Lower Mississippi Delta that we in Washington are working in a bipartisan manner to encourage economic development for the people of this region. During my trips home over the past five years, I have been struck with the degree of poverty and unemployment in many rural communities in West Tennessee. To be sure, the Delta has made some steady progress, but it has been slow. We must act to quicken the pace of this growth. Through our common-sense legislation, we create a federal-state authority which will partner with public and private groups to combat economic depression and stimulate growth by focusing on the needs of communities in the Delta. The legislation will focus on economically-depressed counties, while providing flexibility to allow these counties to partner with economically-strong counties to develop plans that foster growth.

In Tennessee, we are very aware of the success the Appalachian Regional Commission has had over the past 35 years in encouraging economic development in one of our nation’s most impoverished areas. Since 1964, the Appalachian Regional Commission has decreased the poverty level of Appalachia by more than half. The Appalachian region in East Tennessee has actually seen a 10% increase in population since 1990, where in the 1950s millions of people were leaving the region to escape poverty. It is important that we apply the model of success to the lower Mississippi Delta, which has been historically neglected when it comes to economic development initiatives.

We will begin to bring about meaningful and lasting change in the Delta with passage and implementation of the Delta Regional Authority Act. The resulting partnerships and cooperation among localities will encourage economic growth and significantly improve the quality of life for the citizens of the lower Mississippi Delta.

A Helping Hand Needed For The Delta
U.S. Senator Tim Hutchinson
Republican, Arkansas

With all of the talk about America’s robust economy, thousands of Arkansans have not yet experienced these prosperous times. The Delta region represents the poorest of the poor in our country, many without what you and I consider even the most basic needs, like clean drinking water and indoor plumbing, let alone economic opportunity. The problems we face in the Delta are not new. I have spent a lot of time in the Delta during the past three years. In 1999, I traveled the Delta extensively and visited with constituents there. Often, I found a sense of hopelessness and despair. I found young people leaving, with no plans to return. I found an agriculture community in crisis, with few opportunities outside of farming. Yet, I also found an indomitable spirit in those who are striving for better lives and more opportunity.

I visited with constituents in Mississippi County, whose average median income is only $17,000. In Desha County, the median income is only $15,000. And in Chicot County, the average median income is just $14,000. The real tragedy is that these economic figures have not changed in years. This is just further proof that the Delta has suffered in the backwaters of national prosperity.

The government can provide a helping hand to assist these areas in growing their economy and moving toward prosperity. That’s why I’ve joined Senator Blanche Lincoln, Congressman Marion Berry and other members from affected states in introducing legislation that will create a federal-state organization to promote economic growth in the Mississippi Delta region.

Under this legislation, The Delta Regional Authority, a joint federal-state organization, will serve as the central economic development resource for the Mississippi Delta, which includes approximately 219 counties within the states of Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois.

The Authority will be comprised of two co-chairmen and a representative from each Delta state, either the governor or an alternate selected by the governor. One co-chairman will be appointed by the President, with Senate approval necessary. Representatives of the states will choose the second co-chair. The Authority will coordinate all levels of government, helping Delta communities to more effectively access federal grant programs. Functions also include assessing the needs of the region through research, establishing regional economic priorities and encouraging private investment in the area. The establishment of this commission can help provide hope for families in a region that has not experienced the same economic recovery as the rest of the country. I encourage anyone who doubts the great need for this commission to review the income and economic data. More importantly, I would encourage my colleagues to visit the Delta, talk to the people there about the unique challenges they face and their hopes for the future. Seeing it firsthand helps one understand the poverty that plagues this region. I applaud the cosponsors of this bill for their effort to help our Delta families in Arkansas and the surrounding states, and I will continue to look for solutions to provide that helping hand to those in the Delta region.

The Challenge and Promise of the Lower Mississippi Delta region
U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu
Democrat, Louisiana

This nation has long depended on its rivers—such as the Mississippi River—as major transportation corridors for shipping goods across the country and to international markets, making the Lower Mississippi Delta region an important cog in the overall national economy engine.

In fact, for more than 150 years, cotton has been a major segment of the Delta region’s economy. In more recent decades, we have seen a diversifying of our economy through the introduction of soybeans, rice, timber, oil refining and even the chemical industry. However, technological and automation advancements since the 1950s also have meant a high number of displaced workers in this already economically depressed area.

The Lower Mississippi Delta region is a land of great contrast. The region includes thousands of square miles of some of the country’s richest national resources and most valuable physical assets. Yet the population of this area, which includes my home state of Louisiana, constitutes the poorest region in the United States.

The challenges facing the Lower Mississippi Delta region are clear: high unemployment, high illiteracy rates, a lack of affordable housing and a sluggish economy. In fact, while 12 percent of the nation’s population lives below the poverty line, 24 percent live in poverty in Louisiana’s Delta region.

The key to solving these problems is finding ways to stimulate the economy. I have long believed that in order to have a strong economy, you must have a strong work force. And to cultivate a strong work force, a top-notch education system is vital. We must be able to educate our children well enough to compete in the new technology-driven and global economy—one that is fast-growing, flexible, innovative and highly competitive.

A recent Report by the Progressive Policy Institute found that Louisiana—which makes up a good portion of the Lower Mississippi Delta region—lags behind in the information technology revolution. We are 47th in the number of adults with Internet access, 44th in business-related Internet sites, and 49th in computer technology in schools. Clearly we are behind as the nation’s economy transitions to an increased dependency on technology.

While I do not think this Report means we are lost in the shuffle, it does mean we need to make some adjustments. Leaders in business, education and government all need to work together to make the information technology revolution work for Louisiana and the entire Lower Mississippi Delta region. In order to accomplish this, we must search for new solutions to the educational challenges facing children and adults. We must realize that because learning begins at birth and continues throughout life, our education and training system must provide learning opportunities at all stages.

Despite numerous reports and studies, a comprehensive program for addressing the region’s needs has never been successfully implemented, although several efforts are underway. I believe the key to successfully jump-starting the region’s economy will be strong public/private partnerships.

I call upon those of us in the Delta region—businesses, government and residents—to merge our efforts in order to maximize our results.

Improving the Mississippi Delta region
U.S. Representative Marion Berry
Democrat, Arkansas

I was born and raised in the Arkansas Delta. As an adult, I chose to stay in the Delta to live, work and raise my family. I am very proud of my roots, and I believe the Delta is the greatest place on earth. I am equally proud of the people of the Delta, and their enthusiasm and determination to succeed. However, for as long as I can remember, the Delta region has lacked many of the basic things it needs to become a prosperous area of our country. Adequate infrastructure, education and job training, and diversified economic opportunities are desperately needed to give the people of the Delta a chance to succeed.

We are all aware of the needs of the Delta. Numerous statistics are available on the high rates of overall poverty, child poverty, and unemployment in this area, and the low education rates in the region. This Report shows many of the things that have been accomplished in the Delta region over the past decade, but we know we have to do more. Most importantly, we have to continue to work together to improve the Delta. The studies have been done, and we know the problems of the Delta. It is our job to work together, as a community, to solve those problems and work to make it the best it can be.

H.R. 2911, introduced in October 1999, would set up a Delta Regional Authority, an entity to foster a coordinated effort to help bring economic prosperity to the Delta region. It will create an entity where all entities, federal, state, and local, can come together, lay their ideas for improving the area on the table and get to work on ways to make a better future for the Delta.

The DRA will provide financial and technical assistance for programs and projects designed to improve the Delta. The DRA will establish priorities for each region, and will review and study public and private programs to increase their effectiveness. It will also give local organizations a say in how to improve the Delta they know best. Most important, the DRA provides a forum for all those interested to come together to work to make the Delta a better place to work, live and raise a family. A way to improve a region I know can be one of the most productive areas of the country.

We all know the best way to improve the Delta is to improve infrastructure and education. The Delta is a natural transportation hub. We need to effectively use that hub to attract people, business, and jobs. We also know that an educated society is a productive society. If our children are given the best education and brought up healthy and safe, this will mean a brighter future for all of us. The Delta Regional Authority will be a great tool in coordinating efforts and making these improvements a reality. It is time for us look towards the future to see what a great place the Delta can be and what all of us can do to see that it happens.

Working with Local Citizens, Improving the Delta
Republican, Missouri

I am very proud to represent a region of our great nation—the Mississippi Delta—that is so rich in history and so full of promise for the future. The Delta’s tremendous natural resources, vital culture, and location along America’s mightiest river have drawn residents and visitors alike to this wonderful region. However, the Delta continues to face significant challenges, and it has not shared in America’s booming economy of the last several years. I cringe each time I read a new story about the roaring stock market or the prospering economy, because I know that these good times have not found their way to the Delta. Some of the most economically distressed communities in the country are in the Delta, and the region desperately needs additional resources to address chronic hunger, poverty, unemployment, and low education rates.

One of the most urgent needs in the Delta is continued strong support of flood control and navigation, particularly the Mississippi River & Tributaries (MR&T) project. This comprehensive flood control plan is of critical importance to the people in the lower Mississippi River Valley and has saved the government billions of dollars through the protection it has provided since its inception. It has protected the property and livelihood of thousands of Delta residents and, more importantly, it has prevented the loss of life. It is my hope that the federal government will maintain its historic and necessary commitment to flood control in the Delta, a key component to the future of the region. I am pleased that there is a growing recognition of the need to give the Delta the tools that it needs to prosper in the next century. In fact, dedicated local citizens have already begun the important work of bringing economic development and job opportunities to the region. The Lower Mississippi Delta Development Center in Memphis, for example, has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for residents of the Delta. Local drainage districts, conservation districts, and regional planning commissions have also implemented projects and programs that have been critical to the growth of their communities. These local people and groups, proud of their homes and coming together in support of their communities, are an example to all of us of what good citizenship is all about. Much remains to be done, and it is my hope and intent to continue to partner with local people—the real stakeholders—to build toward the future. The strength of the Delta is in the hearts and minds of its people, and they know better than anyone what needs to be done to meet the challenges which they face.

In Congress, I have joined Congresswoman Eva Clayton of North Carolina to re-establish the Congressional Rural Caucus. The overarching mission of this Caucus is to focus attention and resources on rural parts of our country such as the Delta, and to ensure that the voice of rural America is heard in the policymaking process. The Caucus, which has a membership of more than 120 U.S. Representatives, gives rural America “a seat at the table” as legislative and policy decisions are made in Washington, D.C. The fact of the matter is that our rural areas are the bedrock of our nation and represent the very best that America has to offer.

The Delta’s prospects are very bright, so long as there are those who are willing to work together. In flood control, health care, transportation, education, economic development, and other areas, the Delta is poised to make great progress. I am heartened by the knowledge and firm belief that the best days of the Delta are just ahead.

U.S. Representative Bennie G. Thompson
Democrat, Mississippi

The Mississippi Delta region has experienced significant progress since Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas presented the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission’s Report, The Delta Initiatives: Realizing the Dream…Fulfilling the Potential in 1990. After his election in 1992, President Bill Clinton and his Administration have sought to fulfill many of the recommendations in Delta Initiatives, and have had considerable success. However, there is significant work to be done before we can fulfill the dreams of that Report and also address new problems which have emerged over the last decade.

In particular, we must find new means to harness the combined power of the public and private sector in order to leverage new investments in the Delta. The President’s New Markets Initiative has already made substantial efforts to address this task, but this work must be expanded in order to create a more holistic approach to resolving the remaining social, political, and economic problems in the Delta.

What the Delta needs is a comprehensive effort to get its residents moving again. As Reggie Barnes, the Superintendent of the West Tallahatchie School District, wrote in his views on the Mississippi Delta: Beyond 2000 Interim Report, “It is as though the people of the region have accepted the fact that their lives are all they can expect and have an attitude of just doing the best with what they’ve got.”

Many of the federal efforts to improve the quality of life in the Delta are piecemeal: They support business, development, health, education, or other improvements in a particular location or under the work of a single entity in a manner which leaves this work isolated. The problems of the Delta do not stop at the city limits, the school district’s lines, or the borders of the area served by a particular non-profit organization. They are systemic to the social, political, and economic fabric of the entire region.

The empowerment zones and enterprise communities designated in some areas of the Delta have made substantial progress towards bringing people and organizations together from across a wide variety of backgrounds. Now we need to take the next step of statutorily creating an entity that will organize these efforts across the entire Mississippi Delta region, similar to the manner in which the Appalachian Regional Commission has served that area. If we genuinely support this new organization, and provide it with the resources needed to get the job done, we can take the next real step towards fulfilling the dreams of the people in the Delta.

The statutory creation of an economic development commission for the entire Delta can be the chief means of focusing these efforts on a regional level. However, we also need support at a national and state level for innovative programs that can provide other resources needed to address the underlying problems created by years of poverty and poor education and health care.

Congress and the Administration must work together to make real investments in school infrastructure, hiring more teachers, early child development initiatives, childcare, after-school and summer youth programs, job training, public transportation, community health services, and other crucial areas of need. People in the Delta want to learn, work, and be productive citizens, but from birth to death they face obstacles which limit opportunity and frustrate ambition. A national commitment must be made to design and fund reliable, flexible programs that can resolve these problems in the Delta and across the country.

It must be noted that more efforts to assist the Delta must be coupled with a higher standard of accountability. It would be untrue to say that every initiative in the region to date has been either a success or a wise investment. While thousands of people all across the region have been helped by the efforts made in the last decade, it is the few examples of waste and corruption that gain the most public attention and risk endangering all our work. Public and private initiatives in the Delta must do a better job monitoring progress on projects, analyzing results, and implementing reforms. Non-profit organizations and government units also need more training to ensure they are properly implementing projects.

It is only through a real public and private commitment to facing the problems of today—and finding innovative means to address them—that we can begin providing the Delta’s residents with the opportunities and motivation needed to get this region moving again. The Delta is ready to take the next step towards fully entering the global marketplace of ideas and commerce in which much of the United states is already engaged, now it is up to us to provide it with the resources needed to fulfill this potential.


I want to thank Governor Sundquist for hosting the roundtable discussion on the Delta Regional Authority on April 3, 2000, in Savannah, Tennessee, and for Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater’s work on this proposal with the Administration. Because of my commitment to the needs of the Delta region, I am an original cosponsor of Congressman Marion Berry’s bill, H.R. 2911, which would authorize the creation of the Delta Regional Authority (DRA). Our friend, Senator Blanche Lincoln has introduced the measure on the Senate side, and President Clinton has included $159 million in his FY 2001 budget proposal to increase economic opportunities in the Delta, including $30 million for the Delta Regional Authority.

The Delta Regional Authority, established by our bill, would help to organize and develop a 10-year economic development plan for our region. The distressed areas of the Delta region have never had the benefit of a coordinated federal assistance program like the Appalachian Regional Commission. The DRA would be modeled after the ARC and would coordinate federal, state and local efforts to funnel grant money, infrastructure projects such as I-69, and technical training programs for our teachers in the Delta area. It has been noted that our region’s poverty rate is 175% of the national average, and half of the counties have had poverty rates over 20% for the past forty years. The DRA will help to provide assistance so that we can continue to fight the war on poverty in the region and bring these percentages down. The DRA will greatly enhance the quality of life for our citizens by providing water and sewer system grants and loans, and money for good bridges and roads which will attract industries and add jobs. The coordinated efforts of the DRA will also include job training and educational grants to make sure that our citizens have the knowledge and skills to compete for good jobs in an ever-increasing global marketplace.

The DRA funding would be targeted to counties with the highest poverty and unemployment rates and lowest per capita incomes. $25 million would be allocated for area development such as a distressed counties program, physical infrastructure and job training. $3 million would be provided for assistance to participating state and local economic development entities already in place, and another $2 million would be set aside for technical assistance and administrative costs. Governor Sundquist, Secretary Slater and I, along with other Members of Congress and other governors form the region have met personally with President Clinton and his staff about this initiative. It is our hope that this year, with your help, the DRA will become a reality. I urge you to contact your representative and senators and encourage them to cosponsor the Delta Regional Authority legislation if they have not done so already.


(Note: The Mississippi Delta 2000 Initiative will publish extended versions of the following statements in a compendium that will be completed shortly after the Delta Vision, Delta Voices conference in May, 2000. We also invite other grassroots organizations to submit statements for inclusion in the compendium, and also for publication on the Delta Website at

The Delta Caucus and the Arkansas Delta Council

The Arkansas Delta Council is a 501(c)(6) non-profit organization of regional leaders from over twenty Eastern Arkansas Delta Counties. Established in 1990, its mission is the improvement of the quality of life in the Arkansas Delta and the completion of the goals of the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission as stated in its 1990 Final Report to Congress. Delta Council seeks to achieve these goals through advocacy efforts in Washington and elsewhere, as well as a host of community and regional development efforts through grant funding and other initiatives.

The Delta Caucus is a major effort to provide a grassroots advocacy on behalf of the Delta region, and involves all seven states of the Lower Mississippi Valley. It is relatively new, but has been very active in putting together rallies in Arkansas and a 150-person “march” on Washington in October. The mission of the Delta Caucus is defined by a document and petition, entitled the Delta Covenant, which has been signed by literally thousands of Delta residents and delivered to both President Clinton and our leadership in Congress. The Covenant states simply that the citizens and members of the Caucus respectfully urge Congress and the President to establish a targeted and direct federal economic assistance program for the Lower Mississippi Delta region, and provide significant funding for the program to help the region participate in the Nation’s economy. It recognizes that the Delta region, while the poorest region of the country, is the only blighted area without such a targeted economic support program.

Specifically, the Delta Caucus has endorsed the Delta Regional Authority proposal endorsed by the White House and introduced by Senator Blanche Lincoln. However, we are also wanting this bill to be a starting place for a bi-partisan package of help for the region. If Congress refuses to pass this legislation yet again (it has been turned down several times in the past 10 years), we do not want to have all of our eggs in that basket, but would rather ask what kind of package could get the bi-partisan support needed to actually pass

First, the Delta Caucus is requesting that President Clinton designate a high-ranking official to represent the President in negotiations with Senator Cochran and Lott of Mississippi, without whom any proposal is likely to fail in the end. There are fifty ways to kill something in Congress for every one way to get something accomplished. We would like to see a good faith effort made to put other more political matters on the side when working on an issue that is about both President Clinton’s and Senator Lott’s home.

Secondly, there are at least three issues which should be addressed at that meeting, in addition to the Delta Regional Authority:

  • First, advanced construction funding to secure the I-69 corridor and Great River Bridge construction in the next budget.

  • Secondly, the expansion of the Empowerment Zone tax credit for new employees to at least 25-30 core depressed Delta counties.

  • Thirdly, the expansion and targeting of the Single Family Low Income Housing Tax Credit for the Delta region.

  • There are possibly other areas of bi-partisan agreement, regarding education, targeted grant funding, and others. However, we believe that enough bi-partisan support exists both in the Delta region and in Washington to accomplish the first three proposals.

Again, it is our opinion that the President should get this ball rolling now by designating an official to represent him and negotiate with Congressional leaders regarding these important matters for the Delta region.

W. K Kellogg Foundation
Mid-South Delta Initiative

The Mid South Delta Initiative (MSDI) represents a partnership between Delta communities in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF). The initiative focuses on 55 contiguous counties and parishes along the Mississippi River. MSDI is aimed at helping people in these Delta communities acquire useful tools to identify and create a more vibrant economic future. The Initiative’s purpose is to assist the social transformation of the Mid-South by strengthening the capacity of individuals, families, organizations, institutions, and policymakers to develop healthier and more sustainable communities in the Delta region.

Three strategies are being used to implement the initiative. They are: enhancing community economic opportunity, strengthening regional partnerships for economic development, and leveraging internal and external resources, experiences, and investments. To date, an Initiative office has been opened in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. This is the first Kellogg Foundation office anywhere in the United States outside of Michigan. Additionally, a Delta Initiatives Advisory Coalition (DIAC), a regional advisory committee, has been established to help WKKF guide its work. Implementation funding in the amount of $1,050,000 has been committed to 5 Round I community teams from across the region. These communities are in the second year of WKKF’s three-year commitment to their work. Additionally, one-year planning grants adding up to $105,000 have been provided to another ten Round II community teams. Communities successfully completing this planning phase will be eligible for a share of implementation funds totaling $3,000,000 over a three-year-period.


(Delta Council is a major nonprofit institution based in Mississippi that promotes the overall economic development of the Mississippi Delta region.)

While the Mississippi Delta is far from achieving its vision of economic parity with the nation, we are making significant progress. In the last three years alone, the 18 Delta and part-Delta Counties of Mississippi have had 42 new industries locate in the region with over 260 companies constructing significant expansions. This has resulted in over 7,000 new jobs and over half a billion dollars in new investment. Per capita income for the region is gaining on state and national averages and unemployment is continuing to decline. For the first time in history, manufacturing wages have surpassed the $1.0 billion mark.

This progress has not been accidental nor will it reverse. It is based upon strong working partnerships led by local leadership and relying upon the continuing assistance of numerous state and federal agencies that have direct experience in successful rural economic and community development.

No area can prosper without adequate transportation resources. In addition to other highway programs, Mississippi has taken great strides in opening up the U.S. 82 corridor and will soon complete this important four-lane project across the entire state. This highway crosses the Mississippi River near Greenville and will eventually provide four-lane access from the Alabama-Mississippi state line in east Mississippi directly to Little Rock, Arkansas. The Greenville bridge has been classified as a navigation hazard by the U.S. Coast Guard and is authorized for replacement. The FY 2000 Budget included $9.0 million in critical funding to finalize all pre-construction activities. This funding was subsequently eliminated by the Department of Transportation and federal Highway Administration. We believe that this high priority replacement of a documented navigation hazard is critical to maximizing the economic benefit of our highway infrastructure. At the same time, we applaud the continuing development of the I-69 corridor and believe it will do much to enhance the economy of the area.

Recognizing the importance of our historically black colleges and universities, we would like to express our support for increased funding to Mississippi Valley state University for the purpose of strengthening curriculum and management at the University. Delta State University has embarked upon an innovative partnership with Delta Council and 34 Delta School Districts which will train new school administrators, increase the number of new teachers to alleviate our critical shortage and enhance the overall quality of K-12 education. We believe that this $1.5 million allocation should be restored and expanded. Perhaps the single most important element of economic development in the Mississippi Delta is that of job readiness and skills enhancement training. In terms of upgrading our employment and attracting new investment, the Community Colleges in our area have been a crucial factor in recent success. Unfortunately, at the very moment where we are at the brink of success, budget constraints may force institutions like Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale and Mississippi Delta in Moorhead to lay off training personnel. For a number of years, the Committee has supported a modest but crucial program called the Delta Rural Revitalization Program or “Delta Project”. Managed jointly by Mississippi state University and the Development Department of Delta Council, this appropriation has provided massive productivity improvement training for companies such as Viking Range, La-Z-Boy, and Irvin Industries. As a result of this innovative work, Viking has expanded five times and now is recognized as the leader in quality and product flexibility. Even more importantly, these funds have led to the creation of the Delta Data Center. The Data Center, staffed by one person, operates on the premise that in the field of economic development, accurate data and timely response equals success. This operation has been instrumental in providing real-time data resulting in the location of companies like Dollar General, Royal Vendors and numerous others. In addition, the Center provides fast, accurate information to public and private partners resulting in new water and sewer systems, workforce training grants, public infrastructure, and economic development marketing analysis.

We sincerely hope that any effort by the Congress and the Administration to bring a higher degree of emphasis to the needs of the Delta region will use our existing and proven public-sector institutions such as Mississippi Valley state University, Delta state University, Coahoma Community College, Mississippi Delta Community College and the Mississippi Department of Transportation as the primary delivery mechanism for our growth.

Southern Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community Forum
Delta Regional Initiative Priorities

The Southern Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community (EZ/EC) Forum was formed in 1995 by EZ/ECs in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Subsequently, the Forum expanded to include all EZ/ECs located in the 219-county/parish area constituting the Lower Mississippi Delta region—Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee.

On April 16, 1998, the work of the Forum culminated with the signing of the Southern EZ/EC Forum Partnership Agreement, (Delta region Initiative) by 13 Forum members (including one community from Alabama), 3 regional partners, and a host of Delta mayors. The signing ceremony took place in New Orleans, Louisiana and was witnessed by Vice President Al Gore, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater. As a result of the Forum’s strategic planning process, members agreed to formally organize as a nonprofit corporation and subsequently seek federal commission status. The Forum’s Delta regional Initiative goals/priorities are as follows:

Establishment/Recognition of Infrastructure (federal authority/commission) to Facilitate the Initiative Process: There must be federal recognition of the 219-county/parish Lower Mississippi Delta region as a dynamic, functioning region of the United States with common challenges and opportunities for regional development.

In order for the federal government to provide a more effective response to the needs of the Delta region, the existing system of federal departments must be allowed to transcend regional divisions and boundaries. This process has already started under the leadership of Secretary Rodney Slater; however, an executive order or congressional act could mandate the appropriate changes.

Health care and Nutrition: Access to affordable health care by all Delta residents must be a priority if we are to see eventual improvement in education, workforce development, productivity, and many other areas.

Education and Workforce Improvement: Upgrading the Delta’s workforce through improved educational institutions and intensive workforce development initiatives is essential to revitalization of the Delta region’s economy. Studies suggests that better equipped schools, well-trained and better paid teachers, smaller teacher/pupil ratios and introduction of technology in the learning/teaching environment are some factors that could significantly improve test scores for students and better prepare them for entry into the workforce or institutions of higher learning. Rural schools unable to attract certified teachers in critical areas such as math, science, arts, etc. should be linked with other institutions through distance learning programs.

Safe and Affordable Housing: Affordable and safe housing must be a priority for every Delta community. Substantially increasing the number of Section 8 vouchers and providing low interest loans to builders will facilitate the movement of significant numbers of low-income residents from substandard housing. Notwithstanding, a primary goal should focus on increasing the rate of home ownership in the Delta region as a form of wealth building. Accordingly, new and more creative ways must be found to improve homeownership for Delta residents.

Agribusiness-Value Added and Export Opportunities: Agriculture and agribusiness remains the largest single economy in the Delta region. USDA and other agencies should convene a Delta conference of Business and Agricultural leaders to explore value-added opportunities for the Delta. Additional topics of discussion are reforestation of some Delta croplands and export opportunities for Delta products.

Transportation: Finally, the Delta regional Initiative must recognize the necessity of connecting the Delta region to the Nation and the World with a highly efficient and functional system of land, air and water transportation. The I-69 corridor must be fully funded and, where appropriate, improved I-69 access roads should run along both sides of the Mississippi River (Great River Roads as outlined in The Delta Initiatives).


The Delta Compact is a non-profit organization committed to enhancing the economic, social and organizational capacity of the Delta. Initially, the Compact’s leadership came from the states of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi with organizational support from the Housing Assistance Council and the United States Department of Agriculture. As the Compact matured, its members invited the Delta states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri to join.

Participants come from the non-profit and for-profit sectors and include grass roots community based organizations, governmental agencies, educational institutions, financial institutions, corporations and concerned individuals.

The Compact works to enhance the quality and availability of resources to the region through collaborative relationships among its members. The Compact brings together organizations and individuals in a region that suffers endemic poverty. The Compact serves as a rural voice for public policy and shares expertise and capacity among its members to mitigate problems caused by isolation, lack of access to information and race.

The Compact’s members believe that development must be holistic to be effective. The compact unites organizations and individuals committed to articulating rural public policy concerns, stimulating economic development and agriculture, increasing the availability of affordable housing, improving access to health care and health status, upgrading the quality of education and building the skills of the region’s human resource.

J. Wayne Leonard, Chief Executive Officer, Entergy Corporation
Excerpt from Address at Entergy’s Low Income Summit

November 19, 1999, New Orleans, Louisiana

(NOTE: The following is an excerpt of a major address delivered by J. Wayne Leonard, CEO of Entergy and Chair of the Delta region’s BusinessLinc program, a government-private business partnership encouraging large businesses to mentor and provide technical advice to small Delta region businesses. The “Low-Income Summit” of November 1999, attracted low-income customer advocates, regulators, public officials and others from a four-state area, including the Delta states of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. It was the first summit of its kind for this area and for Entergy, which is the third largest power producer in the United states.

The address refers to a $5 million investment from Entergy in the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta (ECD), a business development and finance organization serving poverty-stricken areas along the Mississippi River Delta. It is projected that the investment by Entergy will enable ECD to make more than 300 loans and investments in Delta firms, generating more than 2,500 jobs.)

Welcome, and thank you for making time in your busy schedules to be with us today for the Low Income Summit….

We are looking forward to working with you to identify some of the most pressing issues that face our low-income customers and developing solutions that we can all support. I’ve spent my adult life in the electricity business. I can tell you that the people who produce and deliver electricity take pride in providing something that’s so important to the quality of life we enjoy today. And I believe that no one in this country should have to worry about whether they can afford electricity for their home. As the third biggest power producer in the U.S., our question is how do we make that the public policy of this region and this country?

As the CEO of the company, I have fiduciary obligations to our shareholders that I cannot ignore. And I can certainly defend why that’s in the shareholders’ best interest, but my concerns go well beyond that and well beyond affordable electricity, which is the topic we’re here to discuss.

Making electricity affordable to everyone in this country is only one small part of the overall problems facing people with low income, but it will be difficult to satisfactorily address without creating the overall climate of goodwill.

We are a society today that is fascinated with movie scripts about intrigue, conspiracy theories, and individuals fighting the corrupt powerful government. We’re fascinated with wars on communism, wars with drug lords, Good vs. Evil, and Tom Clancy stuff. And the greatest story of this type never told in commercial theaters is the war not on poverty that this country fought in the 60’s and 70’s, but the war on the poor themselves that we have been fighting ever since.

As a society we are demonizing the poor in the most shameless way imaginable. In many circles, poor people are being made the scapegoats for societal problems they didn’t cause and cannot change. Society’s problems can be traced—at least in part—to poor public education, lack of universal health care and, more fundamentally, lack of success in creating good, above-minimum wage jobs.

In order to justify our actions we have created a logic that says (1) there are fewer poor people today than ever, (2) benefits to the poor are generous and widely available to the deserving, but (3) most are undeserving. They are labeled as the underclass. They are undeserving because they practice “bad” values. They are lazy. They refuse to work. They are immoral—children having children. Therefore (4) in order to correct this societal deficiency, we must practice what amounts to “tough love” by cracking down on slackers and cutting back on public assistance.
Most people tend to accept the story that poor people
Don’t want to work,
Stay on public assistance their whole lives, and
Put themselves in this situation by dropping out of school or through drunkenness or the practice of low morals.

Yet, the facts are these:
70% of the people are off welfare in less than two years.
Of the homeless, one third have mental or physical disabilities and one third are children.
25% of those who drop out of high school do so to take care of family members or work to support family.
The percentage of children living in poverty has increased from 15% to 23% in 20 years, until today 40% of the nation’s poor are children.
Inflation-adjusted AFDC has decreased by 30% in the last 20 years.
Middle-class and upper-income people spend far more of their food and drink budget on alcohol than poor people.

And for the closet racists who would suggest, for example, that public assistance to dependent children is disproportionate among the races, the fact is, for example, there are just as many white mothers as black on welfare. And the numbers of children born out of wedlock are also comparable between the races.

Even though, by almost any definition, we are the richest nation in the world, even among those who have sympathy for the poor, there is a growing belief there isn’t anything we can do about it. The fact is, among the well-developed industrial nations, America’s percentage of poor is two to three times that of the other nations included in that group.

And whatever poverty-related statistics you want to cite for the nation, the statistics for the region, particularly the Delta, are multiples of the national average. For example, in Mississippi and Louisiana one in every three children is poor. And as for federal assistance to make energy available to all, we have already seen almost a 50% cut in federal government assistance for low-income energy programs.

We are fighting a social climate that sometimes seems utterly devoid of goodwill toward the less fortunate. We are fighting a war that we claim to be on the undeserving, the lazy, the immoral. But fact is, it’s a war largely fought against the children and the disabled. How do we create a public policy for energy that is more compassionate than we have established for food and housing?

I cite these facts because I want to make it clear that Entergy is prepared to fight with you in the war on the larger issues of food, housing, health care, and jobs for the poor. In September, Entergy made a $5 million contribution to the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta. In November 1999, Entergy added a quarter of a million dollars to the Foundation for the Mid-South for 1999. These are organizations with missions and track records of improving the quality of life for the less fortunate in the region.

I have accepted the Chairmanship of the BusinessLinc Program for the Delta region, part of the President’s New Markets Initiatives designed to improve the economic climate in the areas of high poverty.

Beyond those kinds of things, what can Entergy do to help shape public policy or what can we do or change in our own policies and procedures in order to make a difference? I know we can’t solve all the ills of society today or by ourselves.

For all the statistics I cite about how society has turned its back to the less fortunate, we know Entergy has not been much better. We have had credit and collection policies, shut-off policies, and rate design methodologies that, seen in retrospect, have been insensitive, if not harsh. We have closed local offices where many of our low-income customers pay their bills so we no longer have to put a face behind that desperate voice on the other end of the line. We have sat in silence as these issues have been debated and then pointed to regulators or elected officials as to the reasons nothing gets done.

These times are behind us. We will no longer take a passive role as minorities or low-income people or any other group that doesn’t have a legitimate voice is victimized by the few who are willing to simply outshout everybody else who disagrees with them. But, we need your help. Your ideas. We can make a difference. As the richest nation in the world we should expect more from our leaders. As the third biggest power producer in the United States serving some of the poorest areas of the country, at Entergy, we should expect more of ourselves. We know you do. Starting today, our goal is to exceed your expectations. Let’s get started.

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, ARKANSAS: Adjusting to a Military Base Closure and Diversifying the Local Economy

(Presented by Blytheville, Mississippi County, Arkansas Gateway Committee, Mayor Barrett Harrison, Chairman)

Since the late 1980s, political, business and civic organizations in Mississippi County, Arkansas have learned the value of collaborative, federal, state, public and private sector partnerships to plan and promote local economic development initiatives. At the turn of the century, Mississippi County’s economy was in many ways characteristic of most high-poverty, low-wage, low-education attainment, agrarian-based county-level economies in the Lower Mississippi Delta. The county had the mitigating influence of employment and related economic opportunity from the Eaker Air Force Base.

In the late 1980s, local municipal, county, civic and Chamber of Commerce leadership negotiated a partnership with state government and the private sector that resulted in the construction of the first Nucor Steel Mill in the Arkansas Delta. Today, through continued state government and expanded collaboration with various federal agencies, including the Department of Commerce and the Department of Transportation, a cluster-based network of steel mills and satellite businesses has evolved. According to the Blytheville-Gosnell Area Chamber of Commerce, this network currently provides 4,000 jobs with average salaries of $15 per hour.

Confronted with the 1992 closure of Eaker Air Force Base, the Blytheville-Gosnell Regional Airport Authority successfully established collaborative state, federal, and private-sector partnerships that have led to the redevelopment of the base into the Arkansas Aeroplex. The Aeroplex is now a multi-faceted campus-like complex with an industrial park, fiber optic park, office park, distribution center, housing complex for the elderly and aviation park with the longest runway—11,600 feet—in Arkansas. Currently, the Aeroplex provides 700 jobs at an average salary of $10 an hour. Mississippi County is rich in Native American and geological, historical, cultural, and archeological sites because of proximity to the Mississippi River and the New Madrid Earthquake fault-line. Negotiations are underway with state and federal agencies, particularly the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior, to establish the Mississippi Valley Historical and Archeological Park for the Lower Mississippi Delta region in Mississippi County.

In recognition of Mississippi County’s multi-modal air, surface, rail and water infrastructure and strategic “gateway” location for north-south surface and water access to Arkansas, the Arkansas Delta and Memphis, the Blytheville/Mississippi County Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority currently has underway, in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers, a feasibility study for construction of the Blytheville slackwater harbor; and has recently published, under the auspices of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, a highly promising analysis of Blytheville/Northeast Arkansas’ Intermodal Transportation and Freight Shipping Needs. The potential for a comprehensive surface, air, water and rail intermodal freight and passenger complex in Blytheville is great.

Delta Race Relations Consortium

The Mississippi Delta has a notorious history of racial discrimination and oppression of African-Americans. From this ominous background, the North Delta Mississippi Enterprise Community (NDMEC), through its Strategic Plan, Benchmarks and programs, is determined to create a new day of equal opportunity and understanding between people of diverse backgrounds. Our race relations programs include:

  • Delta Race Relations Consortium – Convened by the EC the Consortium is comprised of two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Mississippi Valley state University and Jackson state University), two traditionally white universities (the University of Mississippi or “Ole Miss” and Delta state University), the Mississippi Delta Empowerment Zone Alliance, NDMEC and community representatives. The Consortium aims to overcome barriers to communication between blacks and whites in the delta by specific, community-driven development projects. A research component will be included to find out what best facilitates solutions to communication barriers.

  • Community Training Seminars – In conjunction with our Community Training Institute, the EC conducts two (2) race relations day-long events per year. Past speakers have included former USDA Secretary Mike Espy, Sen. Thad Cochran, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, Lawrence Guyot, former Chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and other business, religious, and non-profit stakeholders.

  • Credit access testing and Fair Housing – As a partner in a HBCU grant with Coahoma Community College, the EC conducted a first-ever commercial credit/housing development test of area banks that showed wide spread violations of federal housing and lending laws. We have also conducted seminars on Fair Housing and are now applying to be a HUD Fair Housing - Private Enforcement Agency.


(Submitted by Mid-South Delta Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a nonprofit organization with headquarters in Greenville, Mississippi. Mid-South Delta LISC invests in revitalizing communities by channeling private resources from corporations and foundations to community development corporations for housing, community development, and job creation projects.)

The country’s robust economic engine in this remarkable decade has all but bypassed the Delta. But, there is hidden good news: a growing record of achievements by local community development corporations—neighborhood-based, nonprofit organizations that have produced impressive results in towns up and down the Delta. There are many signs of this progress: families have bought new affordable homes, child care centers have been built, affordable rental units have been constructed, and jobs have been created. Beyond the small towns that each group works in, the impact of each development, standing alone, is not great. But, given the region’s unusual handicaps, they are significant.

The Delta is not bereft of initiative and ideas, but of capital. Far from the centers of media, commerce and government, their achievements, like their problems, get scant notice. The best investment in the Delta would be dollars, technical assistance, training and organizational support for these groups that have worked successfully, in virtual obscurity and under oppressive handicaps, to improve opportunities in the region.


Presented by Tulane-Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research, New Orleans, Louisiana, John A. McLachlan, Director

Tulane University is pleased to be leading a partnership of public and private organizations that intend to create “The National Museum of the Mississippi River: A center for exploring river science, culture, and technology.” Other institutional partners include the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans, Xavier University, and the Audubon Institute.

The center, to be located in New Orleans, will include several components: the museum proper, a world-class scientific research arm, a think-tank, and an educational element. All of these will relate to the entire river, and we believe the project will have a dramatic impact not only on New Orleans and Louisiana but on the entire Delta region.

The museum itself will examine everything from geology to the blues, from engineering and economic development to the cultures that developed along the river. We believe it will be a major tourist attraction, and we intend to build linkages between it and other tourist attractions the entire length of the river, and particularly in the Delta.

Potentially more important will be the research the center conducts. It will investigate the business of water. This includes, for example, everything from regional economic development issues addressed by the think-tank, to soil engineering for levees, to the so-called “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, a multi-billion dollar question that involves nearly every entity along the river, from agribusiness in the upper Midwest to the great fisheries in the Gulf.

In addition, through its focus on river systems (and particularly the Mississippi system) and the convergence of the humanities and sciences, the center can create a new, rich learning model for students and scholars, for tourists and in-depth researchers. The center will sponsor a permanent program of interchange of students, faculty, and interested visitors from other institutions throughout the Delta and for that matter the world. In short, the National Museum of the Mississippi River will be a world-class multi-purpose venue, a major tourist destination and a resource for local and international research, education, and policy studies on rivers around the world, but especially on the Mississippi itself. We are excited about the impact of such a facility on the region, and are in the process of engaging partners throughout the Mississippi Valley and elsewhere to make it a reality.

Greening the Delta: Strengthening the Economy Through Ecological Restoration

This statement is presented by Cynthia R. Brown, Mississippi River Project Director of The Nature Conservancy, an international conservation organization founded in 1951.

The challenge of our society in this new century is to recognize the interdependency of a healthy environment and robust economy in the Delta and to implement strategies that integrate resource conservation with compatible economic development. Leaders throughout the Delta are responding to this challenge, recognizing that environmental and economic issues can no longer be considered independent of each other. One strategy that offers promise for hundreds of Delta landowners is to restore forests to areas that are only marginally profitable in conventional row-crop production. Through politically popular incentive programs like the Wetlands Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, and Partners for Wildlife, farm equipment once used to plant soybeans, corn, and cotton is now putting thousands of acres of trees back into Delta soils. Up-front payments make this economically possible in the near-term for farmers, and strong hardwood prices promise substantial economic returns on timber far into the future.

Conservation easements ensure that timber will be harvested in a sustainable manner and that established forests will provide all the amenities society values. Private companies are also becoming increasingly interested in forest restoration and have invested millions of dollars to establish forests that will sequester thousands of tons of carbon and thus offset greenhouse gases produced by their operations. In short, reforestation is correcting many of the environmental problems facing the Delta while also providing an income for landowners.

Re-establishment of the bottomland hardwood forest and improving water quality also promises to increase local revenues generated from hunting and fishing the Delta’s forests and water bodies. Tens of millions are spent each year on hunting and fishing licenses in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana, with much of this being contributed by out-of-state visitors. Millions more are spent on tackle, bait, shells, and fuel. In addition, reestablishment of the hardwood forest in the Delta is enhancing nature-based tourism. The lure of the Delta’s swampy setting, coupled with its unique culture and history, provides an opportunity for tourism perhaps unparalleled anywhere in the country. In the 1990s, vacationers were visiting the Mississippi River more than 12 million times each year, generating billions of dollars and supporting tens of thousands of jobs.

The Delta’s people will always depend on its agricultural economy. But a sustained quality of life also depends on clean water, protection from floods, soil conservation, opportunities for recreation and tourism, wildlife habitat, and opportunities for education and research - all amenities provided by the Mississippi River’s forested wetlands. Today, public and private entities – including thousands of landowners, non-profit organizations, federal, tribal, state, and local agencies, private companies, and private foundations - are creating partnerships that emphasize common solutions and find creative economic mechanisms for restoring bottomland hardwood forests. In the past eight years, nearly half a million acres of marginally productive farmland have been restored to bottomland hardwood forest through these partnerships.

This on-the-ground implementation sends a powerful message. People from throughout the Delta are committed to creating a secure and healthy future for our children. And, we look forward to the day when mature forests and clean rivers provide important habitat for native wildlife of every sort.


(The Lower Mississippi Delta Development Center is a major nonprofit organization that promotes economic development and conservation of natural resources in all seven states of the Delta region.)

The soil, water and related natural resources have made the Delta region a world class agricultural area, contributing, in a major way, to the overall economy of the region. The economic impact of the natural resources of the Delta is almost impossible to calculate since so much of the total economy utilizes the soil, water, minerals, rivers, uplands and wetlands and all of their complex ecosystem components. The major concern of the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Center is that these basic resources need to be wisely used and conserved so that this generation and future ones can continue to utilize and receive the benefits that these resources offer the Delta. The LMDDC has developed a list of recommendations that it believes would assist in satisfying its concerns for these resources. This list includes the creation or naming of a Delta entity that would coordinate or lead the overall economic development of the region; maintaining or accelerating programs of point and non-point pollution control for the Mississippi River system; and expansion of the Conservation Reserve Program and Wetland Reserve Program to reverse the loss of valuable coastal wetlands along the Gulf of Mexico.


The area around East Prairie, Missouri will be freed from backwater flooding by the completion of the approved Enterprise Community Strategic Plan to implement the St. John’s Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project. The completion of this project will make it possible for residents of East Prairie and the surrounding area to move freely to jobs in the community or to go to work in other places.

For more than 60 years, residents had struggled to complete the flood control plan for their area. Over these years, persistent flooding increased the urgency to control these floods that have severely impacted agriculture, disrupted utility services and businesses, closed schools, dislocated families and flooded roads. Correcting this became possible in December 1994 with the Presidential designation of East Prairie as an Enterprise Community, having met eligibility criteria regarding size, poverty, unemployment and general distress—conditions typical of the rural Mississippi Delta. The approved Enterprise Community strategic plan includes implementation of the St. John’s Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project as a means to help improve the economic status and overall quality of life throughout the region. The first phase of the project has been completed.

Related to the flood control project are tourism, transportation and economic revitalization components of the Enterprise Community strategic plan. Tourism goals include the connection of several adjacent natural resources: Ten Mile Pond Conservation Area (3,800 acres); Big Oak Tree state Park; No. 7 Wildlife Refuge Area, Hickman-Dorena Ferry (a new ferry re-establishing transportation across the Mississippi); and Towasahgy (Mississippian Indian era mound builders encampment). Economic revitalization includes the preservation of older business buildings and a reduction in the local unemployment rate. Transportation goals include the completion of Highway 60 east across southeast Missouri into Kentucky. Completion of these projects will help to highlight existing resources and promote the region’s development.

A View Regarding Kentucky Delta Region Development Issues

(Submitted by Robert Coleman, Paducah, Kentucky City Commissioner)

Funding to support the following activities would promote community and economic development in the Mississippi Delta region:

  • Transportation

    Develop additional four-lane routes to serve as feeder routes to the Interstate system. These routes should be designed to accommodate 48’ – 102’ trucks.

    Provide support for the development of additional public transportation operations. The lack of transportation is often cited as a barrier to employment for low-income residents in rural areas.

    Place an emphasis on the development of existing riverports and efforts to increase commercial air service

  • Infrastructure

    Installation or repair of on-site wastewater treatment systems.

    Extend public water and wastewater service to rural areas in an effort to sustain economic development.

    Designate water and wastewater treatment consolidation projects as a higher priority for funding.

  • Workforce Development

    Develop programs that provide worker training and retraining to improve the skills so the region’s workforce is able to compete in world economy. Efforts should be make to focus resources on the under trained.

    Efforts to recruit employers that offer a livable wage.

    Increase opportunities for access to the Internet for the marketing of products and telecommuting where appropriate.

  • Health care

    Develop a health care system that makes quality care available in rural areas.

    Place an emphasis on wellness/preventive care.

  • Housing

    Increase resources for low income housing rehabilitation.

    Increase opportunities to obtain affordable new homes.

    Increase efforts to develop alternative living arrangements for region’s elderly and disabled.

Each program should have a mechanism to expedite implementation. These measures will increase job opportunities and improve the quality of life for residents of the Delta region.


(Statement of Terry Sherwood, Chairman of the I-69 Initiative, a Delta organization that promotes the development of Interstate 69.)

The critical link to Interstate 69 is the Great River Bridge. The potential economic boost which this bridge, coupled with proposed routing of I-69, will ultimately have on the severely depressed sector of the Arkansas/Mississippi Delta is difficult to measure. Suffice it to say, it will undoubtedly serve to provide unparalleled opportunity to the some eighteen counties impacted by the economic significance this international trade corridor will anchor as it establishes its route through south and east Arkansas to the crossing point of the Mississippi River.

The impact and its significance for fostering economic growth and development is multiplied through the potential this bridge crossing will provide in opening up intermodal opportunities to meet the diversified and growing demands of both our intra-national and international sectors comprising our worldwide economic markets. The Great River Bridge connected to I-69, an international corridor, will connect the southern and eastern sector of Arkansas to the heartland of the United states, which represents a market of 16 million people strong and serves as a predominant production center responsible for generating the vast majority of all manufactured items in the United states.

Hopefully, this location will not only be cleared as the approved site for the Great River Bridge, but construction will be allowed to commence in the immediate future in support of anchoring the route location of I-69 through Arkansas and beyond.

Statement of Zachary Taylor Parkway Commission, Louisiana

The Zachary Taylor Parkway Commission was created by the Louisiana Legislature for the purpose of promoting the construction of a modern four-lane parkway between I-49 near Alexandria, Louisiana and I-59 near Poplarville, Mississippi.

The centerpiece of the Parkway is the bridge that is to be constructed across the Mississippi River between St. Francisville and New Roads, Louisiana at an estimated cost of $150 million in state funds. Perhaps I should point out that the high cost projected for this project reflects the fact that the cost of constructing the approaches to a bridge in Louisiana sometimes exceeds the cost of the bridge itself.

I am pleased to state that the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development last year agreed to provide sufficient funding from the TIMED program to complete the necessary engineering to site the bridge and to subsequently acquire the right of way to preserve the corridor. TIMED is an acronym use to designate the Louisiana transportation improvement program that is funded by a 4 cent per gallon fuel tax approved by Louisiana voters in 1989.

The Parkway will go through 8 Louisiana Parishes and 1 Mississippi County. All eight of the Louisiana parishes are among the 219 counties and parishes determined by Congress in 1988 to comprise the Lower Mississippi Delta Region.

As might be expected, poverty and high unemployment have characterized the area that will be served by the Zachary Taylor Parkway.

We commend President Clinton for the role he played as Chairman of the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission when he was Governor of the state of Arkansas.

We commend the Secretary for the key role he played in the development of the Report issued in 1990 by the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission when he was serving as vice chair of the Arkansas state Highway Commission. And we express appreciation (a) for his work in connection with the issuance of the 1995 interim Report entitled “Linking the Delta Region with the Nation and the World,” and (b) for his continuing interest in the effort to provide substantial federal support of the Delta Region. The Delta Region is long overdue in receiving the level of federal funding that has been provided for many years to the Appalachian Region. We urge the President to press for this action and we urge the Congress to begin appropriating the funds.

We believe that the enactment by Congress of a law authorizing such tax credits is the single most effective short-term action that can be undertaken to improve the Delta Region. And we believe that the lending of money to state governments by financial institutions which participate in such a program of tax credits is the most important role for the private sector in the Delta’s future. We suggest that the wise utilization by state governments of such funds in connection with transportation projects is the most important role for state in the initiative to improve social and economic conditions in the Delta Region.


(By Jim Dupree, Presidential Appointee to the Commission on 21st Century American Production Agriculture, and Harvey Joe Sanner, an Arkansas farmer active in the Delta Compact, the Delta Caucus, and head of the Arkansas American Agriculture Movement)

Efforts to devise a mechanism that can be incorporated into a comprehensive farm bill that will provide a basic safety net to family farmers eventually lead one to the marketing loan concept. We are not aware of any other plan, currently being offered as a replacement to current legislation, that meets the criteria as well as the marketing loan plan.

The marketing loan concept recognizes the importance of prices paid to farmers while acknowledging the budget concerns, consideration to exports, trade implications and a policy objective of having a truly counter-cyclical program.

Being a true safety net leaves no room for arguing that program benefits will lead to farmer cannibalism or inflated land or rental values. Any benefits received by farmers would be during times of disastrous price levels. Most years would require no federal outlays.

The concept could also be styled to provide a safety net feature to serve as a disaster program in times of production losses. This program could be developed with far greater efficiencies and serve as a more constructive relief measure than attempts to expand crop insurance. Two concerns could be addressed here: reducing federal costs while restoring integrity to the disaster programs.

The policy objective of preserving a family farm system as the chief production sector for American agriculture is not only laudable but also obtainable. This marketing loan concept is a very straightforward, uncomplicated, easily administered program. At this juncture we are confident that this proposal can withstand any honest policy assessment. Farmers designed this plan for farmers and the level of acceptance has been overwhelming. Producers interpret this as a workable program that can be applied to all crops and regions of the country. They—along with farm program administrators—understand the practicality of this program. They also appreciate the fairness related to producers being the beneficiaries when conditions warrant program disbursements.

We find no obstacle that can’t be overcome in the implementation of this program while adhering to the policy objectives identified as worthy goals for the next farm bill. Fiscally responsible, properly directed benefits, and counter-cyclical—all are undeniable traits of the marketing loan concept.


(Submitted by the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation)

Farm Bureau is a private, non-governmental organization of farm and ranch families united for the purpose of influencing public policy for the betterment of agriculture and rural communities. The general goal of the organization is the improvement of net farm income. The Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation is the 9th largest state Farm Bureau in America, and is affiliated with the American Farm Bureau Federation, which is the nation’s largest farm organization with over 4.5 million member families. In Arkansas, Farm Bureau has more than 215,000 member families.

Agriculture is Arkansas’ largest industry and the largest component of Arkansas’ economy. Gross sales of agricultural commodities total over $5 billion annually. Including the value of agriculture and food processing, the industry accounts for approximately 25 percent of Arkansas’ economy. Over one-half of Arkansas’ total land is devoted to agricultural production. The state’s 14.4 million acres of agricultural land are divided among 44,000 farms, with an average farm size of about 320 acres. The crop production component of Arkansas agriculture is concentrated in the state’s Delta area. Sustainability of Arkansas’ agricultural industry is vital to future economic and rural development. There are numerous current issues that will impact the sustainability of agriculture. These include water availability, acceptance of biotechnology, world market access, future direction in federal farm programs, and regulatory issues.

Arkansas is America’s largest rice-producing state, with over 1.6 million acres accounting for approximately 45 percent of all U.S. rice. Arkansas ranks 4th nationally in irrigated cropland with 12 eastern counties in the nation’s top 100. Water availability has been a primary reason for the growth in agriculture, particularly in the eastern part of the state. Continued availability of water will largely determine the continuance of this growth. Developmental needs to provide for the continued availability of water include incentives for the development of surface water systems to reduce dependence on ground water resources.

Exports are vital to Arkansas agriculture. Access to world markets is essential to allow the state’s agriculture to reach its full potential. Approximately 50 percent of the world population is subject to some trade-restrictive policy such as tariffs or embargoes, and approximately 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States. Global food demand is increasing and the ability to meet this growing demand depends upon trade reforms to allow for market access to Arkansas farmers.

The current commodity price situation facing U.S. farmers is bleak, with most prices at or near 20 year lows. U.S. farm policy must address this situation in order for U.S. agriculture to survive. Future farm programs must provide for a safety net for producers in times of low prices, and also provide export incentives to allow movement of U.S. commodities into world markets. Failure to provide for a means of producer survival in times of low prices will prohibit the sustainability of Arkansas agriculture and limit its potential in providing for economic development in the state.

Expansion of the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program

(Submitted by supporters of the National Association of Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs in the Delta region, both within and outside of the Delta region, including Moses Williams of the Southern EZ/EC Forum.)

The WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) provides participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) with vouchers to purchase locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets during the local growing season. FMNP vouchers enable WIC participants to obtain nutritious fresh produce in addition to the other foods WIC provides. Local fruit and vegetable farmers participating in the FMNP are reimbursed for the value of the vouchers, thereby increasing their farm income and expanding their customer base. In fiscal year 1998 (the latest year for which program data is available), the program reached 1.35 million WIC participants and 9,600 farmers selling at over 1,500 market locations. Farmers received in excess of $12.4 million through FMNP sales.

Most states in the Mississippi Delta region administer the FMNP. Kentucky and Missouri began their FMNPs in 1994. Illinois initiated a program in 1995, as did the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The states of Arkansas and Mississippi joined the FMNP in 1998. In these locations, the FMNP is administered either by the state health department or the department of agriculture. The WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program should be expanded into the only remaining states in the Delta where it still does not exist: Louisiana and Tennessee. It should also be gradually expanded within the five states where it currently exists.

Highlights from Delta Listening Sessions, 1999

This memorandum reflects broad themes that were dominant in all listening sessions. The attachments contain excerpts from the proceedings of the sessions organized by the open space topics (Human Capital Development, Environmental, Natural and Physical Assets, Business and Industrial Development, and Diversity, Equality and Social Issues).


There were a number of strong themes that were common to all the listening sessions and often prevalent across several of the open space topics. Three of the recurring themes are discussed below:

Regional Planning and Development: There is strong support for a regional planning commission, similar to other federally sanctioned and funded regional commissions. However, attendees were quite specific that this commission should be “owned” by the region. In other words, its members should be the regional stakeholders.

While current regional efforts were acknowledged, it was believed that the time is right to create an entity that has clear responsibility for the region’s planning. In most cases, it was recommended that a formal strategic plan be developed for the region that includes the active input of all partners—individuals, local, state, and federal. In addition, the commission’s membership should be diverse, inclusive and representative of the Delta population.

Suggested roles and responsibilities for this entity would be as the primary clearinghouse and coordinator for collaborative efforts. In some cases, this was interpreted as an information provider so that all organizations interested in the common goals of the region could access current, up-to-date information. Others suggested that the commission could also spearhead technology advances and linkages to further the goals of the region.

Collaboration: Collaboration was predominately featured as key to the success for any further efforts to promote progress and prosperity for the Delta region. It was not identified just as a means to an end, but both as a means and an end.

In one session, collaboration was called “active inclusiveness”. Whatever the term, participants described it as a very deliberate effort on the part of individuals, agencies, departments, or even a Delta Commission that can ensure that grassroots stakeholders, who are the intended beneficiaries of efforts to improve the region, are integrally involved in all discussions and decisions.

Collaboration was also understood to mean partnering. This included expanding the current coalitions as well as exploring some options for non-traditional or creative partnerships to leverage community resources and funding opportunities. Finally, facilitating meaningful and productive collaboration is thought to be a significant role for a Delta Commission.

Education: Education meant different things to each open space topic but was critical to success in all. Of course, quality in Kindergarten through 12 education should continue to be pursued, but life-long learning in the form of trade skills, leadership development, and community capacity building were all part of the expanded definition of education.

There were very few ideas for progress in the Delta that did not include education and learning. It was stated again and again that this learning should not be bounded by any artificial barriers but should and could occur at many levels—department to department, agency to agency, federal to federal, and state to state, community to community, industry to small entrepreneur, university to schools, and on and on. Mentoring in its many forms was a frequently mentioned method for learning and capacity building.

The following charts summarize the priorities, as stated by the participants near the end of each listening session.

(These charts and the above summary were prepared by Janna Evans, a nonpartisan consultant who helped organize the sessions.)

Top Three Priorities (from presenters’ notes)
Comprehensive and economic development Quality education for workforce development Access for all Education: Increase # of students graduating, and/or passing skill measurements and getting credit for life skills and experience
Improved Education (early childhood through adult education) Capacity building of Delta region by identifying and developing leaders at local levels Convergence of resources Housing: More high quality/affordable housing appraised in an unbiased manner constructed by more local involvement
  Establish a legislative/Congressionally created Delta region Commission to oversee Delta enhancement projects, implement recommendations resulting from these listening visits and Delta study Coordination of leadership Health Care: Improve access to health care in underserved areas by cooperative transportation programs, changes in state policy and insurance practices so mid-level practitioners can make more decisions
Methods to Achieve: Collaboration and keeping people (at all levels) involved.
Top Three Priorities (from presenters’ notes)
Delta image and unity of goals and objectives Reexamine federal policies and funding to achieve economic and environmental sustainability in the delta, particularly those related to water quality and quantity, air quality, and habitat restoration, preservation, conservation. Include within this the roles of the various agencies, relationships to issues, need for partnerships and federal/state task forces/funding to address issues, and streamline processes for wetlands and water-related issues (e.g., see National Academy of Sciences report on the COE) Improved integrated planning and implementation Transportation: Complete I24 to I57 to US60; Technology transfer to all schools and communities in upper Delta; complete Birds Point/New Madrid Flood control project
Effective intermodal transportation system Implement policies to aid survival of family farms A sustainable institutional mechanism to ensure follow-up and implementation of this initiative Agriculture: World market competitiveness, i.e., no sanctions on agricultural trade; Sustain viable, independent family farms, both large and small. Increase value of farm commodities before they leave the north Delta area.
Delta Regional Authority (as a vehicle to pass resources to region) Develop region wide and coordinated, multimodal transportation plan Stress the quality, quantity, and coordination of water issues and projects Environmental: Protection and improvement of water resources; Improve wildlife and fish habitat, continue Farm Bill Incentive Programs; Integrate structural and non-structural water controls
Top Three Priorities (from presenters’ notes)
Education: Add access to public education; Training in trade skills and immediate employable jobs and how to build a successful business More involvement by all; more awareness, and firmer commitment to the Delta program; better advertising dollars, invite business and university representatives—involve students, CEO’s and presidents Education for school-aged children; education to the community as to what resources (federal/state/local) that are available as well as training for entrepreneurs; People need to know how to access programs, leverage dollars, etc. Develop master (regional) plan with local input—grassroots up
Infrastructure: Highway maintenance to sustain tourism (Route 69); Basic services for industry, including housing, not just water & sewer; access to technology to overcome barriers that rural creates Common ground: operate on the similarities that their projects have with other communities; Accentuate the positives of the community and encourage support for one stop control information access having a point person to champion issues and share information where dollars may be transferred by an agency rather than go back unused—networking Financial support: which includes access to capital from our financial institutions for business start-ups and expansions Formalize entity that will take the leadership role; create a Delta Foundation/Caucus; emphasize with cost benefit analysis
Access to capital: Target banks to help make credit available in small towns/markets; focus on value-added to agricultural products Access to capital/funding: Make it economically feasible; Give incentives to venture capitalists and other agencies who support these efforts Political Input: Elected officials show commitment and time devoted to training and leveraging with others (i.e., chambers of commerce, etc.) Fully fund a regional leadership entity
Top Three Priorities (from presenters’ notes)
Establish ongoing think tank opportunities for genuine communication Develop more communication links with grassroots people; get their ideas and input in developing their communities, increasing opportunity. We also need to develop capacity for these residents to take control of their destiny Fund and require the involvement of grassroots input in the planning and decision process with an assurance that the decisions will actually translate into funding actions with specific measurable results Leadership development & mentorship: information transfer critical to this
Address issue of distribution of and access to property, economic resources, and political power Racism is a problem but economic disparity is an even greater problem; develop wealth building initiatives with input from the community Fund capacity building activities Foster a positive image and perception of the entire Delta region
Maintain and strengthen legislative mandates and guidelines designed to insure equity in access to and representation in all areas of community improvement Infrastructure development for Louisiana that will include transportation, education, health care, etc. Address the breakdown of the public school system and the inadequacy of any predominately single race school in our mixed race society of the MS Delta Active inclusiveness in planning the entire region

For verbatim records of all the listening sessions, contact:

U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs
400 7th and D Streets, S.W.
Room 10405
Washington, D.C. 20590
(202) 366-1524