Delta Council Praises House Agriculture Committee Concept Paper

Urges Mississippi Agriculture Committee Members to Adopt Proposal

FOLLOWING A MEETING of Delta Council officers and a conference call among farm policy leaders of the Mississippi Delta, Delta Council President Ben Lamensdorf corresponded with members of the Mississippi Congressional Delegation to urge their support of the House Agriculture Committee “Concept Paper” proposal offered by Chairman Larry Combest, which is aimed at authorizing provisions for new farm legislation.

“We have reviewed the House Agriculture Committee proposal in fairly significant detail and we find many of the basic principles of good farm policy incorporated into this proposal,” stated Lamensdorf, the Sharkey County cotton producer who currently serves as President of the area-wide organization.

The proposal offered by the House Agriculture Committee would establish a CCC loan and marketing loan provision similar to that which exists under current farm law. Additionally, the 2002 AMTA payment would be extended through the life of the next bill under the House proposal. And the counter-cyclical target price mechanism would provide the necessary income protection during those periods when market prices remain at distressed levels throughout the marketing year. The counter-cyclical target price mechanism would be triggered by low prices but administered in a decoupled fashion, so as not to be tied to production.

Proposed loan rates, fixed payment rates and target prices
Crop $/unit Loan rates Fixed rates Target prices
2001 Proposed 2002 AMTA Proposed 1995 Proposed
Wheat bu. 2.58 2.58 0.46 0.46 4.00 4.00
Corn bu. 1.89 1.89 0.26 0.26 2.75 2.75
Sorghum bu. 1.71 1.89 0.31 0.31 2.61 2.61
Barley bu. 1.65 1.65 0.19 0.19 2.36 2.36
Oats bu. 1.21 1.21 0.02 0.02 1.45 1.45
Upland cotton lb. 0.5192 0.5192 0.554 0.554 0.729 0.729
Rice cwt 6.50 6.50 2.04 2.04 10.71 10.71
Soybeans bu. 5.26 4.92 --- 0.34 --- 5.76
Minor oilseeds lb. 0.093 0.087 --- 0.006 --- 0.1018

“The farm policy leaders and officers of Delta Council felt that the House Agriculture Committee proposal is a solid foundation upon which to begin farm policy discussions, and if it is the will of the Congress to enact farm legislation this year, we felt that it would be important for members of the Mississippi Congressional Delegation to know that we view this proposal as a very positive step toward bringing economic stability to agriculture and rural areas such as the Mississippi Delta,” added Lamensdorf.

CRP Continuous Sign Up Receiving Much Attention in the Delta

THE DELTA IS faced with the pressing need to solve numerous water quality issues before they become regulated. The EPA released a report last year listing nearly every stream in the Delta on the 303(d) list, recognizing them as impaired in some way. This in combination with TMDL issues, DDT fish advisories, and the big push for riparian buffers by the NRCS is making CRP Continuous Sign Up look like a possible solution for both environmental and economic concerns.

CRP Continuous Sign Up allows landowners to enroll lands adjacent to streams and wetlands into the program. The maximum width that can be enrolled is 180 feet; however, the total acreage is not limited so long as it qualifies. The purpose of the program is to filter agricultural run-off and provide shading and additional food resources for aquatic ecosystems. Enrolled lands are reforested or planted to grass.

Delta Council, Delta F.A.R.M., and Delta Wildlife have been promoting the Continuous Sign Up since last April when additional payment incentives were added. Currently, the program pays annual rental rates based on soil types, plus an additional 20 percent. The program also pays roughly 90 percent of the cost of implementation and provides landowners with a $10 per acre per year signing bonus making the program economically feasible for most lands in the Delta.

However, other states including Missouri and Illinois have expanded their Continuous Sign Up programs to provide even more incentives for the landowner to participate in this water quality improvement program. In these states, maximum widths have been enlarged to encompass the 100-year flood plain. Additionally, cottonwoods have been approved for planting in these states, similar to Mississippi.

Recently, Delta Council, Delta F.A.R.M. and Delta Wildlife served as host for a meeting to identify other areas that the program can be expanded and improved in Mississippi. Topics that were discussed included the re-examination of current rental rates in the Delta, expanding maximum widths, and approving cottonwood cultural practices as a standard practice.

The meeting was followed by a tour of existing CRP Continuous Sign Up properties. Among those in attendance at the meeting and tour were Tom Weber, Homer Wilkes, and Al Garner of the NRCS and Bob Stephenson and Steve Melton with the FSA. Phil Bass, the Director of Pollution Control at the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality was also on hand and discussed the significance of this program as it has the potential to solve many water quality issues in the Delta.

Murphree Testifies At I-69 Hearing

DELTA COUNCIL Transportation Committee Chairman Ken Murphree of Tunica provided testimony at a recent Interstate 69 hearing in Clarksdale held by Mississippi Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, and Neel-Schaffer. Highway planners have begun the work of securing a suitable route through Mississippi, stretching from Robinsonville to Benoit.

To date, the highway's southern and northern terminus in Mississippi have been determined. After careful evaluation by the Federal Highway Administration and local cooperation between interested advocates in Arkansas and Mississippi, Mississippi Transportation Commissioners Dick Hall and Zack Stewart persuaded the Federal Highway Administration that the siting of an I-69 Mississippi River crossing should be centered at a location which is locally known as the vicinity of Eutaw Landing and Arkansas City. In addition, the highway's northern entry into the state has been formally designated: Highway 304 from Hernando to Highway 61 at Robinsonville.

Murphree pointed out that Delta Council has been turning its attention to the stateline crossing.

“Delta Council has now directed its emphasis to the Tennessee state line crossing to address our next priority,” Murphree told the groups. “The position of Delta Council, the Mississippi Department of Transportation, and the State of Mississippi is for the I-69 plan to include a state line crossing in the vicinity of Collierville, Tennessee. Such a state line crossing would provide an outer loop for the Memphis metropolitan area and create an interstate-quality connection between Mississippi four-lane Highways 72, 78, Interstate 55, and U.S. 61.”

In regard to the area between Highway 304 at Robinsonville and Eutaw Landing, Murphree said that “Delta Council would like to emphasize that we hope that federal, state, and local planners will endeavor to find a route through the Mississippi Delta that will provide the most economic, social, and environmental benefits for the Delta region, while offering safety for the traveling public and commerce. Our chief concern is for the study to produce a route that has the greatest economic impact on the largest number of communities and counties in Northwest Mississippi.”

Delta Forestry Leaders Applaud Cochran's Efforts

SENATOR THAD COCHRAN earned praise from Delta forestry leaders after obtaining $500,000 in a Senate Appropriation committee measure to strengthen the science-based knowledge necessary for widespread reforestation in the Delta.

The project would allow the Center for Bottomland Hardwoods in Stoneville to establish a reforestation and reproductive biology emphasis, along with a fully coordinated stand development and forest health team.

“The reforestation of bottomland hardwood stands on land that was previously utilized for agricultural production is a complex and challenging task,” said Burk Burkhardt of Vicksburg, chairman of Delta Council's Forestry Committee. “In the absence of a major, expanded effort in regeneration, reproductive biology, stand development, and forest health, the growth of bottomland hardwoods systems is certain to fall short of our expectations and hopes.”

Committee vice-chairman Philip Barbour of Sidon said that Cochran's efforts are important in order to maintain a healthy and orderly growth for this important Delta resource.

“We appreciate Senator Cochran's efforts,” said Barbour. “This is so critical because there is such a rapid expansion of acreage in the Lower Mississippi Valley being converted from agriculture to forestry and it is important that we have the knowledge to do the job right.”

The Center for Bottomland Hardwoods was established in 1962 at the Stoneville research complex. The Center is nationally acclaimed for its contributions to the science of bottomland hardwoods management. Scientists at Stoneville study wildlife ecology, endangered species, insects, disease, and stand management in Southern bottomland hardwoods.

Officers meeting of Delta Council held

FRIDAY, JULY 13, was the first meeting of the new Delta Council officers who were installed on May 24, at the Annual Meeting of the regional development organization. Officers and executive appointments to the Delta Council Board of Directors were invited to the half-day orientation and policy briefing.

“July 13, was the first time that I have had the opportunity to really sit down and visit with the vice presidents and the treasurer of Delta Council regarding the sensitive issues and active projects which are ongoing at Delta Council at this time,” stated Ben Lamensdorf, the Sharkey County farmer who serves as president of Delta Council this year.

Officers had a policy briefing at Stoneville on the 13th, and priority areas such as highway development, farm policy, flood control and educational policy were discussed at the meeting.

Officers of Delta Council serve for one year and each vice president of Delta Council serves as an ex-officio vice chairman for several of the standing committees of the organization throughout the year. Officers for 2001-2002 include:

Ben Lamensdorf, Cary, President
Cliff Heaton, Lyon, Vice President
Ray Makamson, Greenwood, Vice President
Ray Rounsaville, Charleston, Vice President
Howard Sanders, Hollandale, Vice President
Sledge Taylor, Como, Vice President
Huey Townsend, Belzoni, Vice President
Frank Sibley, Marks, Treasurer

Also, Delta Council President Ben Lamensdorf has appointed the following members to the Delta Council Board of Directors under his authority to make executive appointments to the Board.

Hall Barrett III, Belzoni
Caroline Laudig Gaines, Cleveland
Jon Levingston, Clarksdale
Dr. Lester Newman, Itta Bena
Carver Randle, Indianola
Charles Reid, Clarksdale
Helen Skelton, Winterville
Archie Tucker, Stoneville
Charles Weissinger, Rolling Fork

Delta F.A.R.M. Membership Campaign

Delta F.A.R.M. has been growing in membership since its inception in October of 1998. Today, Delta F.A.R.M. represents more than 415,000 acres of cropland in the Mississippi Delta region and hopes to enroll an additional 85,000 acres by the year-end.

The three-year-old organization is dedicated to conserving, enhancing, restoring the natural resources of the Mississippi Delta by encouraging landowners and farmers to implement environmentally and economically beneficial conservation practices. The organization provides information to landowners on conservation practice implementation, cost sharing opportunities, regulatory information, and other valuable information.

The Delta F.A.R.M. membership is free to all landowners, farm operators, or land managers in the 18 Delta and part-Delta counties of Northwest Mississippi. Delta F.A.R.M.'s free membership is provided as corporate sponsors such as Syngenta, D&PL, FMC, and Farmers Grain Terminal and grants from the EPA, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation fund the program in full.

To become a member of the organization, a cooperator must simply agree to strive to improve his overall environmental stewardship and submit to an annual evaluation. The evaluation is in the form of a questionnaire and documents all non-regulatory conservation practices that each member has implemented on their lands. This information is used to promote farmers as conservationist and showcase the voluntary efforts of Delta farmers to conserve our natural resources.

Delta F.A.R.M.'s membership campaign will focus on Leflore, Coahoma, and Bolivar counties this summer. But no matter what county you own land in or farm in, we would like to encourage you to join Delta F.A.R.M. by calling Trey Cooke at (662) 686-3370.

THE DELTA COUNCIL REPORT

A Newsletter of Delta Council

PRESIDENT
Ben Lamensdorf
Cary

VICE PRESIDENTS
Cliff Heaton
Clarksdale

Ray Rounsaville
Charleston

Sledge Taylor
Como

Ray Markamson
Greenwood

Howard Sanders
Hollandale

Huey Townsend
Belzoni

TREASURER
Frank Sibley
Marks

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT
Chip Morgan

EDITOR
Frank Howell

Levee Board: Do not be alarmed over fish advisory

IN RESPONSE TO the Delta-wide fish advisory issued by the Department of Environmental Quality regarding DDT levels, The Mississippi Levee Board is urging residents not to be overly worried. In other words, don't cancel the weekend fishing trip just yet.

The new advisory recommends consumption of no more than two meals per month of buffalo, carp, gar and catfish larger than 22 inches. Farm raised catfish are NOT included in the advisory, nor are bream, crappie, bass, fresh water drum and small-to moderate sized catfish.

The Mississippi Levee Board supports the activities of DEQ and the information they provide to the public and urges the heeding of the advisory. However, some of the more extreme and vocal environmental groups, and certain members of the media, are using the health issue of DDT as a means of delaying and preventing the completion of flood control projects in the Delta.

These projects are vital to the well-being and livelihood of area residents and are desperately needed. In particular, these opponents of Mississippi Levee Board projects, such as the big Sunflower River Maintenance Project, point to dredging as being responsible for stirring up DDT and other contaminants.

The exact opposite is true. The use of dredging, the primary purpose of which is flood control, has actually helped in removing harmful residue out of the bottom of rivers. The work necessary on the Big Sunflower Project will be accomplished primarily by hydraulic dredging and/or clearing and snagging in an effort to avoid and minimize adverse impacts to bottomland hardwoods and wetlands.

Sediment will be removed and placed in confined disposal areas out of the river. During construction of the Big Sunflower River Maintenance Project, monitoring will insure activities meet the requirements of the water quality permit as issued by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

The Environmental Protection Agency, in fact, is actively proposing the removal of contaminants by dredging the Hudson River in New York. Former EPA administrator Carol Browner told reporters the proposed dredging on the Hudson River will “protect the health of millions of families, fish and wildlife, rivers and estuaries.” It should also be noted that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is actively advocating dredging as part of the Deer Creek Restoration Project.

As far as DDT levels where such projects have been completed, such as the channel clean-up on the Upper Steele Bayou Project in Washington County, the work has resulted in an 85 percent reduction in levels of DDT in fish tissue. Testing of these fish tissues showed that DDT levels were well below 6.0 parts per million (PPM), the EPA's limit for banning fish for human consumption. In fact, most of the fish tested were below the 1.0-PPM limit for no restriction. Similar testing results are expected for the type of work planned on the Big Sunflower River Maintenance Project.

Moreover, tests have shown that it is perfectly safe to consume fish in area streams and lakes. “The levels of DDT that are found in fish will not make you sick,” reports Dr. Barbara J. Petersen, president of Novigen Sciences, Inc., a Washington D.C. based international regulatory consulting firm. “Additionally, DDT levels continue to decline in the environment and in our food supply. The levels that FDA and others find in all foods, including fish, have declined substantially over the past 20 years. Because of their feeding habits, some fish have higher levels of DDT than other fish,” Dr. Petersen continues, “and since DDT is fat soluble, there is concern that DDT could accumulate in you body as a result of frequent consumption of certain fish species. Therefore, the DEQ is advising you to limit your consumption of some of these species that are known to contain higher levels of DDT.” Dr. Petersen recommends that fish remain a part of a healthy diet, as it is a nutritious food.

“Our mission at the Mississippi Levee Board is implementing and maintaining flood control projects for the good of our people,” summarizes Jim Wanamaker, chief engineer with the Mississippi Levee Board. “We believe that these projects will greatly help with the issue of DDT. Our purpose here at the Levee Board is to create solutions. To help us in doing that, we urge our Delta citizens to look closely at the facts and not be fooled by any misinformation being presented by others.”

New Directors Named to Development Department Board

A NUMBER OF Deltans have been named to the Board of Directors for the Delta Council Development Department in 2001-2002, according to Chairman Al Rankins of Greenville.

The Delta Council Development Department, which works to enhance and coordinate economic investment and development in the 18 Delta and part-Delta counties of Northwest Mississippi, has two representatives from each county in the region. The Development Department is funded by membership investments in Delta Council by businesses and individuals in the region, as well as through each respective county's Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Directors serves as the guiding body and point of local coordination for Development Department activities.

The following are new directors of the Development Department:

Judson Thigpen Bolivar County
Charles Reid Coahoma County
Gerald Clifton DeSoto County
Sen. David Jordan Leflore County
Dickie Stevens Humphreys County
Dr. Lester Newman Leflore County
Brooks Earnest Quitman County
Frank Sibley Quitman County
Carver Randle Sunflower County
Tommy Reynolds Tallahatchie County
Otey Sherman Tallahatchie County
Bill Pegram Tunica County
Rep. Mike Chaney Warren County
Barthell Joseph Washington County
Wardell Leach Yazoo County
Charles Weissinger Sharkey County
Sen. Neely Carlton At-Large Member
Dr. Cass Pennington At-Large Member
Archie Tucker At-Large Member

Rice/Soybean Field Day
Stoneville
August 16, 2001

8:00 Registration
8:30 Field Day Begins

Evaluation of Herbicides for Problem Weeds in Rice, Dr. Mark Kurtz, Plant Physiologist, DREC

Weed Control in MGIII Soybeans; Matching Production Systems and Herbicide Programs, Dr. Dan Poston, Assistant Weed Scientist/Ext. Soybean Specialist, DREC

Evaluation of New Rice Varieties for Resistance to Sheath Blight, Blast and False Smut; Susceptibility of Soybean Varieties to Various Diseases and Viruses, Dr. Gabe Sciumbato, Plant Pathologist, DREC

Nitrogen Management and Response to Nitrogen of New Rice Varieties Including Hybrids, Dr. Wayne Ebelhar, Agronomist, DREC

Conventional and Transgenic Soybean Varieties, Irrigated and Non-irrigated, Mr. Bernard White, Manager, Variety Evaluations, MAFES

Soybean Maturity Group Response to Planting Date on Non-irrigated Clay Soils, Dr. Lingxiao Zhang, Assistant Agronomist, DREC

A Look at Promising Rice Breeding Lines Currently Under Evaluation. Dr. Dwight Kanter, Agronomist, DREC

Fertility of Recently Land-formed Rice Fields, Dr. Joe Street, Extension Rice Specialist
Mr. Tim Walker, Research Assistant, MSU

Management of Ultra-early and Early Planting of MG0 and MGIV Soybean Varieties, Dr. Larry Heatherly, Research Agronomist, USDA-ARS

Roundup Ready Soybeans, Applied Nitrogen, Drought, and Nitrogen Fixation, Dr. Jeff Ray, Research Geneticist, USDA-ARS

LUNCH

Cotton Field Day
Stoneville
August 15, 2001

8:00 Registration
8:30 Field Day Begins

Management of N and K in Cotton/Corn Rotations, Dr. Wayne Ebelhar, Agronomist, DREC

Reduced Tillage in Mono-culture Cotton and Corn/Cotton Rotation Systems, Mr. Lyle Pringle, Associate Agricultural Engineer, DREC

Cotton Disease and Nematode Control, Dr. Gabe Sciumbato, Plant Pathologist, DREC

Herbicides for Lay-by Weed Control, Dr. Harold Hurst, Plant Physiologist, DREC

Variety Trials and Developments in DREC Lines and Insect Resistance, Dr. John Creech, Assistant Agronomist/Plant Breeder, DREC

Early Planting Production System for Cotton, Dr. Bill Pettigrew, Plant Physiologist, USDA/ARS

Occasional Caterpillar Pests and Experimental Transgenic Varieties, Dr. John Adamczyk, Research Entomologist, USDA/ARS

Evaluation of Various Row spacings for Cotton, Mr. Steve Nichols, Research Assistant, DREC

Evaluation of New Defoliants, Dr. Charles Snipes, Plant Physiologist, DREC

Management of Cotton Insects, Dr. Aubrey Harris, Entomologist, DREC

LUNCH