Thompson discusses Delta issues
by Chance Wright
Oct 26, 2012 | 1953 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With Election Day less than two weeks away, U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, took precious time away from the campaign trail on Thursday to entertain and educate students at Delta State University as part of the DSUVotes program.

DSUVotes is a student program under the guidance of the Madison Center for the Study of Democracy, Human Rights and the Constitution. Under the advisement of Dr. Gary Jennings, the program is wholly organized and supported by students Michael Fair, Katie Portner and Danielle Stanley.

While Thompson hit on numerous topics during his address to a packed Jobe Auditorium, his lecture concentrated on three important issues facing the Delta region and the nation – the Farm Bill, voter ID and economic development.

"The program that we are operating under right now as far as the Farm Bill is called a continuing resolution," said Thompson. "We passed the resolution for six months but have only approved funding for three."

The farm bill is the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government. Beginning in 1973, farm bills have included titles on commodity programs, trade, rural development, farm credit, conservation, agricultural research, food and nutrition programs, marketing, and the SNAPS, or food stamps, program.

"So, when we go back to Washington on Nov. 13 until the end of December we will either have to put the money in to continue the program or pass a new bill or we are in a world of trouble," Thompson added.

Thompson said that the trouble he is talking about is not for the people who are still out there harvesting crops but for when the producers are trying to figure out what they are going to be doing next season.

"This is the challenge that we face with this issue here in the Delta," he said. "Direct payments will likely be a thing of the past and it will be offset by a new insurance-like program covering all of the commodity crops."

When asked about the delay in bringing a new Farm Bill to the floor for discussion, Thompson said that there was a group "primarily identified as the Tea Party" that have come to Washington saying that they don't want the government involved in agriculture.

"This is one of the main programs that this group is trying to do away with," he said. "The problem with this is, of course, that without financial help from the government, many of our Delta farmers would not be able to make it another year without a good Farm Bill. The simple truth is that if we don't pass a new bill then we are in serious trouble."

Thompson said that the way he looks at the voter ID issue, "it’s a solution looking for a problem."

"I find no evidence to support the reasoning of why we need voter ID in Mississippi," he said. "I find no evidence that dead people are voting; I find no evidence of people voting under names that they are not. So, why would we create a layer of government that there is no reason for?

"I think the chilling effect of this law, if implemented, greatly outweighs the positives," he continued. "The truth is that if implemented, so many people won't have a valid form of identification and they would be turned away from the polls."

Thompson went on to say that economic development and finding a community niche has become more important than ever for Delta communities over the past several years.

"We find ourselves in a time when much of the apparel and line factories have left the area for Mexico and other areas searching for cheap labor," said Thompson. "We just cannot compete with the low hourly wages so we have to find a niche to attract business."

Thompson used the town of Como as an example citing the revitalization of the downtown area with art galleries, trinket stores and the number one rated steakhouse in Northern Mississippi.

"They found their niche in the little town of Como and the downtown business it thriving," he said.

When asked about what the young people, like students at Delta State, could do to help in these efforts, Thompson said the first thing was to take pride in your community.

"There is nothing wrong with fraternities, sororities and other civic groups to volunteer their time for the betterment of their communities," said Thompson. "Get a group together once a month and pick up trash. Do anything that will make your community a better place to live."

Thompson added that a lot of responsibility needs to be put back on city, county and state officials.

"City and county governments need to adopt and follow ordinances," said Thompson. "These ordinance need to be enforced and protocol need to be followed on a consistent basis.

"These are just some of the things that need to be done for Delta communities to continue moving in the right direction," he concluded.