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.

15 Members of Congress, Leaders from 8 Delta States Set for June 3-5 Delta event

Posted on May 23, 2008 at 04:52 PM

The annual Delta Initiative in Washington, DC will feature 15 Members of Congress, six high-level national executive branch officials, a Presidential forum with representatives of the major Presidential campaigns, and local leaders from all eight states of the region extending from southern Illinois to New Orleans, Louisiana. The RSVP count is currently 127 people, but this does not include Congressional and other federal staff, so the total participation level will be much larger than that over the course of the conference.

Participants will include Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker (MS), Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor (AR), Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA), Rep. Chip Pickering (MS), Rep. Travis Childers (MS), Rep. Artur Davis (AL), Rep. Rodney Alexander (LA), Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (MO), Reps. Marion Berry and Mike Ross (AR), Rep. Charles Melancon (LA), Rep. John Cazayoux (LA), Rep. John Tanner (TN).

On June 4, Wednesday morning, we will have a Presidential Forum featuring Rep. Artur Davis (AL) speaking for Sen. Barack Obama; Rep. Chip Pickering (MS), speaking for Sen. John McCain; and Rep. Marion Berry (AR) speak for Sen. Hillary Clinton, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, right behind the US Supreme Court at 212 East Capitol on Capitol Hill.

We will also have the Hon. Rodney Slater, former US Secretary of Transportation, the Hon. Hershel Gober, former US Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and six Bush administration appointees, including USDA Secretary Ed Schafer’s Chief of Staff Dale Moore, Administrator Roberto Salazar of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Chief of Staff Jim Fitzgerald of Rural Development, and US Deputy Assistant Secretary Joel Szabat.

We will feature mayors, elected county officials, business leaders, nonprofit foundations, universities and colleges, state legislators, experts in transportation, economic and community development, health care, and other key issues for the Greater Delta region.

Below is the latest draft of the agenda. Thanks very much for participating in this regional effort to promote economic development in the eight-state, 240-county region of more than nine million people.



5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.-reception

Recognize former Veterans Affairs Secretary Hershel Gober Recognize Rep. Travis Childers (MS)


Introduction: Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus

1. Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, Missouri (introduced by Martha Ellen Black, Executive Director, Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center, East Prairie, Missouri)

2. Congressman Charles Melancon, Louisiana

3. Congressman John Tanner, Tennessee

4. Congressman Rodney Alexander, Louisiana

6:30 to 7 p.m.-Speakers on New Markets Tax Credit and other initiatives for generating economic development in the Delta

1. Bill Bynum, CEO, Enterprise Corporation of the Delta, Hope Community Credit Union

2. Bob Nash, former White House aide to President Bill Clinton-the legacy of President Clinton’s economic initiatives in the Delta

7 to 8 p.m. PANEL-Best Practices in Economic and Community Development in the Delta

  1. Gloria Dickerson, Kellogg Foundation, Jackson, Mississippi

  2. Minnie Bommer, rural development expert, Covington, Tennessee

  3. George Miles, Delta LISC, Greenville, Mississippi

  4. Toyce Newton, President and CEO, Phoenix Youth and Family Services, Inc., serving Ashley, Bradley, Chicot, Desha and Drew counties in southeast Arkansas

**WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4, MORNING SESSION, 8:30 a.m. to 11:40 a.m., LUTHERAN CHURCH OF THE REFORMATION, 212 EAST CAPITOL Parish Hall, directly behind the US Supreme Court building**

8:30 to 9 p.m.-Alternative energy speakers- Lee Mikles, CEO, Future Fuels, Batesville, Arkansas

9 to 9:30 a.m.–Rep. Artur Davis, Alabama, Speaking on behalf of Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois on why he believes Obama would be the best President to address the issues of the Delta region

9:30 to 10 a.m.-HEALTH CARE ISSUES–Grassroots speakers

  1. Fran Flener, Arkansas State Drug Policy Director-speaking on issues of prevention of substance abuse

  2. Don E. Patton, Counselor-Recruiter, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, MEDPREP; issues of expanding health care to underserved areas of the Delta

  3. Martha Ellen Black, Executive Director, Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center, East Prairie, Missouri-Issues of working people gaining access to health insurance

10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.–Rep. Chip Pickering, Mississippi, Speaking on behalf of Sen. John McCain and why he believes McCain would be the best President to address the economic issues of the Delta region

10:30 to 11 a.m.-KEY ECONOMIC ISSUES-Grassroots speakers

  1. Donna Raynalds, Executive Director, Southernmost Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone (SIDEZ) Serving Pulaski, Alexander and Johnson counties

  2. Tuwanna Williams, Community and Economic Development Manager, Mississippi Mid-Delta Empowerment Zone Alliance (MDEZA) Serving Bolivar, Holmes, Humphreys, Holmes, Washington, Sunflower and Leflore counties

11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.–Rep. Marion Berry, Arkansas, Speaking on behalf of Sen. Hillary Clinton, and why he believes Clinton would be the best President to address the economic issues of the Delta region

LUNCH ON YOUR OWN-we suggest the Dirksen Senate building basement cafeteria, which is near where we will meet in the Russell Building that afternoon starting at 1 p.m.

**WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4, AFTERNOON SESSION, 1 P.M. TO 4:15 P.M. Senate Russell Office Building, Room 385**

FIRST PANEL, 1 to 2 p.m.

1. President Randy Dunn, Murray State University, western Kentucky

2. Rep. Mike Ross, Arkansas–1:15 to 1:45 p.m.

3. Sen. Mary Landrieu, Louisiana, 1:45 to 2 p.m., approximately

  1. Reid Doster, New Orleans, Louisiana CBF, leader in rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina**

  2. Dr. Tiffany Hardrick, Charter School in New Orleans neighborhood devastated by Hurricane Katrina

SECOND PANEL, 2 TO 4:15 P.M., June 4

1. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas-about 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

2. Sen. Mark Pryor, Arkansas, 2:30 to 3 p.m.

3. Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi, 3 to 3:15 p.m.

4. Sen. Roger Wicker, Mississippi, 3:15 to 3:30 p.m.

5. Rep. John Cazayoux, Louisiana, 3:3o to 3:45 p.m.

  1. Rex Nelson, Alternate Federal Co-Chair, Delta Regional Authority

  2. Mayor Helenor Bell, Hayneville, Lowndes County, Alabama

  3. Natalie Robottom, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Director of the Governor’s Office of Community Programs and DRA Designee for the state of Louisiana

THURSDAY, JUNE 5, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., USDA National Headquarters, South Building Cafeteria, 1400 Independence Avenue SW

(This session is in a meeting room adjacent to the USDA South Building cafeteria. When you enter any of the main entrances to the USDA South Building, the security officers can tell you where the cafeteria is. (Meeting in this room adjacent to the cafeteria will enable people to occasionally take breaks and have a cup of coffee or food during that session, which is very important and is the last group meeting of the annual initiative in Washington, DC. We will have the luncheon there from noon to 1 p.m.)


1. Moderator and speaker, Johnnie Bolin, Executive Director, Arkansas Good Roads Transportation Council

2. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy Joel Szabat, US Dept. of Transportation

  1. Bill Triplett, Senior Adviser to Federal Co-Chair Pete Johnson, Delta Regional Authority

  2. Chris Massingill, Gov. Mike Beebe’s Alternate Delegate for the state of Arkansas, Delta Regional Authority

  3. Dr. Sunny Morris, ADWIRED, West Memphis, Arkansas

  4. David Shipman, Associated Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service, speaker on agriculture and transportation

Thursday, June 5, 10:15 a.m. to noon–USDA ISSUES

The Hon. Rodney Slater, former US Secretary of Transportation-message on the importance of the Delta regional movement

  1. Dennis Roedemeier, Missouri Research Corp., Southeast Missouri State University, rural economic development issues

  2. Joe Belden, Housing Assistance Council, rural housing issues

3. Dale Moore, Chief of Staff to USDA Secretary Ed Schafer

Several farmers, including Harvey Joe Sanner, President of American Agriculture Movement in Des Arc, Arkansas, Ann Cash, farmer from McGehee, Arkansas and member of the Arkansas Natural Resource Commission, and Desha County Judge Mark McElroy, Arkansas City, Arkansas, will be prepared to ask questions about a strong safety net for farmers in the farm bill

4. Jim Fitzgerald, Chief of Staff, USDA Rural Development

5. 11 a.m.-Roberto Salazar, Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)

  1. Delta Nutrition Intervention Research Inititiative (NIRI)-Dr. Betty Kennedy, Dietary Assessment &Food Analysis Core, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

  2. Ed Cooney, Congressional Hunger Center, Washington, DC

Noon to 1 p.m.–LUNCHEON SPEAKERS-Overview, and a look ahead at Delta Grassroots Caucus activities in the coming months

  1. Jo Anne Smith, Executive Director, Southeast Arkansas Cornerstone Coalition, Inc., Monticello, AR

2. Desha County Judge Mark McElroy-“State of the Delta” address


Lead Sponsor

Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas, Blytheville, Arkansas

Major Co-Sponsors: Thus far in the 2008 season, we have received “major co-sponsorship” contributions of $1,000 to $2,000 from:

Housing Assistance Council, Washington, DC

Heifer International

City of Sikeston, Missouri

Entergy Corp.

Inspire Hope Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Paragould, Arkansas, fighting poverty in Arkansas (Chairman is Laymon Jones, a native of Wynne, Arkansas)

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (state organizations of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, and headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia)

Thus far in the 2008 season, we have received “sponsorship” contributions of $200 to $350 from the following:


The late Chicot County Judge Fred Zieman, Lake Village, Arkansas (Judge Zieman passed away in early 2008. He was a great champion for the Delta and is greatly missed.)

Shawnee Community College, Ullin, Illinois

G.A. Wildman, Alabama

Merchants &Farmers Bank, Dumas, Arkansas

Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc., Missouri

First State Bank &Trust, Caruthersville, Missouri

Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center, East Prairie, Missouri

Writing Our World Press, Jonesboro, Arkansas (headed by Janis F. Kearney, former White House aide and author)

Delta Citizens Alliance based in Greenville, Mississippi

Great River Economic Development Foundation, Blytheville, Arkansas

Mid-South Community College, West Memphis, Arkansas

Desha County Judge Mark McElroy, Arkansas City, Arkansas

Municipal League of Arkansas

Mississippi County Economic Opportunity Commission, Blytheville, Arkansas

First Bank of the Delta, Phillips County, Arkansas