As keynote speeches go, Sen. Thad Cochran’s remarks at the 75th anniversary meeting of the Delta Council were relatively brief, lasting a little more than 10 minutes on the stage of the Bologna Center at Delta State University, May 28.
But Cochran’s comments spoke volumes to those who have followed the “Delta’s Chamber of Commerce” over its 75-year history of working to improve life in the 18 Delta and part-Delta counties of northwest Mississippi.
“It has been a special blessing to work with you on historic and ongoing issues that relate to agriculture,” Cochran said, referring to legislation he helped write over more than 30 years in Congress. “Federal farm bills have had a very important impact on this region, and you know that better than anybody.”
Cochran said he has always benefitted from the “advice and counsel” he received from Delta Council leaders not only in farm programs, but also in conservation and soil and water resources, rural development and trade incentives.
Besides serving as chairman of the Senate Committee on Agricultural, Nutrition and Forestry, the position now held by Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Cochran has served on the Senate Appropriations Committee, a key post for helping fund projects of importance to the Delta and to the Mid-South.
The Delta Council annual meeting or Delta Council Day has been graced by a number of notable speakers, including Under Secretary of State Dean Acheson, who announced the Marshall Plan, author William Faulkner, Vice President George Bush and then-Arkansas Gov. and former President Bill Clinton.
But Cochran’s selection seemed to be a good fit for the 75th annual meeting given his lifelong support for agriculture and Mississippi, as Delta Council President Travis Satterfield noted in his introduction of the senator: “If a person is from the Mississippi Delta and he is interested in higher education, they should thank Thad Cochran; if you are a Delta citizen who is interested in recreational hunting, fishing, clean lakes, and national parks in the Delta, you are indebted to Thad Cochran; if you are a veteran or if you currently are part of the American Armed Services, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or even the space programs of this country, and you are from the Delta, you need to be proud of the fact that Thad Cochran is your friend.”
The state’s senior citizen gave no indication of resting on his laurels; however, saying the region faces challenges on the local, national and international fronts.
“It has become very difficult to maintain a consensus at the national level to support traditional farm programs,” he said, referring to the growing number of attacks on farm programs and commercial agriculture.
“The decisions made by foreign governments continue to have an impact on our domestic agriculture, and I remain convinced that the United States should support our producers of agricultural products here at home while continuing to advance the opportunities of free and fair trade.”
The Delta Council will continue to play a role in addressing those issues. “For over 75 years, the residents of the Delta have looked to Delta Council for insight, guidance and leadership,” he said. “The Council has used its influence to help develop consensus for government policy and programs that strengthen our state’s economy and produce job opportunities for our citizens.
“Our state still needs Delta Council to be an active stimulus and leader in our life today, to help assure tomorrow will provide opportunities for all to citizens for economic progress and prosperity.”
Cochran also commented on the economic conditions facing the country, noting America appears to be experiencing a “jobless recovery,” similar to the one which followed the 1930s Depression, the era in which the Delta Council was created.
Despite the slow recovery being felt in Mississippi and elsewhere, new business activity is occurring in Mississippi. Cochran listed several new developments including a new pipe plant being built in Tunica, the announcement by Twin Creek Technologies Inc. of San Jose, Calif., of a solar-panel manufacturing plant in Senatobia, a new call center in Yazoo City, and Delta Oil Mill’s purchase of PYCO Oil Mill properties, including the company’s plant in Greenwood.