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.

Deadlines--106 RSVPs, 12 Members of Congress, Obama officials at Sept. 15-16 Delta Events

Posted on August 18, 2009 at 12:44 PM

We have 106 RSVPs, 12 Members of Congress from both parties, Obama administration appointees at USDA, and a health care spokesperson from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ office to present the administration’s views on health care reform for the Sept. 15-16 Delta conference. Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans will be included, and we want to have a congenial dialogue where all points of view on health care in particular and the broader questions regarding economic development for the Greater Delta Region will be addressed in a thoughtful, civil setting. Some key deadlines are coming up soon.

Key speakers include Rep. Mike Ross (Ar), Rep. Jerry Costello (IL), Rep. Marion Berry (AR), the HHS representative, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (MO), Sen. Thad Cochran (MS), Sen. Blanche Lincoln (AR), Sen. Mark Pryor (AR), Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA), Rep. Artur Davis (AL), Rep. Charles Melancon (LA), Rep. Travis Childers (MS), and Rep. Joseph Cao (LA).

National executive branch officials who will be speaking include USDA Under Secretary for Administration Pearlie Reed, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Victor Vasquez, and other Obama administration officials.

Please keep recruiting more participants from the Delta. While this is a good turnout, we could use many more. We usually get a substantial number of last-minute RSVPs and we want that to happen this year. We can never have too many grassroots leaders advocating for the Delta to the powers that be in our nation’s capital!

Thanks a million to so many people who are willing to take the time and expense to advocate for the Delta despite this severe recession. We want to urge the powers that be to do more to promote the economic recovery, and many in our group have a lot of good advice and ideas to provide.

DEADLINES: If you wish to stay at the group hotel, that deadline is two weeks away on August 31. You can get the group hotel and be assured of a room there if you call by August 31, and the hotel has agreed to accept reservations as late as September 1, Tuesday. After that there will probably not be any space left, and if there is you will not get the cheaper group rate of $229.

You get the group rate by calling the Radisson at Reagan National Airport at (703) 920-8600 and telling them that you are with the Delta Caucus for the night of September 15, 2009. You will only need one hotel night to take part in all the group sessions, because you can check out on the morning of Sept. 16, leave your luggage at the hotel, go to the Senate and USDA sessions that afternoon that will end about 4:15 p.m., and then go back to your hotel and pick up your luggage and take a flight back home that evening.

Some people are staying on until Thursday to do extra advocacy for the Delta on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Sept. 16. We shortened the conference somewhat because we know many people are suffering financially from the recession and we wanted to make the conference less expensive to attend this year.




DEADLINE ON EARLY REGISTRATION: DEADLINES: The early registration fee deadline is August 24, 2009. The early registration fee is $85. After August 24, the registrations increase to $100. We do not want the extra $15, we are just trying to create some incentive for people to get the fees in early. We have bills coming due right before the conference. Moreover, it creates logjams and slows things up at the conference if we have a lot of people waiting in line to pay the fees at the door.

Registration. You register by sending in the registration fee.

Please make out the $85 early registration fee check to “Delta Grassroots Caucus” by August 24, 2009, and mail the check to:

Delta Grassroots Caucus

(Attention: Lee Powell)

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

After August 24 the registration fee is $100.


This session will basically feature Members of Congress and dialogue with them.

Featuring Rep. Mike Ross (AR), leader of the Blue Dog Democrats on health care; Rep. Jerry Costello (IL), a senior Member of Congress from southern Illinois; Rep. Marion Berry (AR), a senior Member of the Appropriations Committee, pharmacist, and another leader of the Blue Dogs; HHS health care spokesperson from the Obama administration to discuss health care reform; Rep. Charles Melancon (LA), representing a southern Louisiana district; Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (MO), a distinguished Republican Congresswoman from southeast Missouri who is widely respected on both sides of the aisle; Rep. Joseph Cao,(LA), a new Republican Representative who represents New Orleans; Rep. Travis Childers, a new Democratic Representative from Mississippi.

Grassroots speakers that evening will also include Mayor Helenor Bell of Hayneville, Alabama, who has a success story to tell about a DRA mobile health care unit that was of great assistance to her community; Desha County Judge Mark McElroy; and Mayor Brad Cole of Carbondale, Illinois.

Senate session is Wednesday morning, Sept. 16, 8:30 a.m. to noon, Senate Dirksen building, ground floor, SD G-11.

(Please note that the Senate changed our meeting room from what was listed earlier–this happens at times, and it was the Senate’s decision based on their logistics.)

Speakers include Sen. Blanche Lincoln (AR), who is from Helena-West Helena in the heart of the Delta and is a member of the powerful Finance Committee; Sen. Mark Pryor (AR), who is rising in clout on Capitol Hill and a member of the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Thad Cochran (LA), a very distinguished Republican who is admired on both sides of the aisle and is senior ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA), another member of the Appropriations Committee and a leader in the effort to reform FEMA after Hurricane Katrina;, and Rep. Artur Davis (AL), an eloquent Harvard Law graduate from Alabama who was an early and staunch supporter of President Obama.

We are glad to have Chris Masingill, key aide to Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas on economic stimulus implementation and other key issues and DRA Alternate for the state of Arkansas; Dr. Tim Todd, Dean of the Business School of Murray State University in western Kentucky, who works on a wide range of innovations including greater use of renewable energy and expanded broadband access; Bill Triplett, senior adviser to the Delta Regional Authority; Dr. Bob Dansby, president of the Eugenics Corp., which works on broadband access and telemedicine; and Alan Branson, Chief Operating Officer of Enterprise Corporation of the Delta/Hope Community Credit Union, one of the most dynamic nonprofit foundations operating across Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. Mr. Branson will cover a number of issues, including the New Markets Tax Credit. Moderator for the “big picture” economic development panel that starts out the Senate session on Wednesday morning, Sept. 16 is Johnnie Bolin of Crossett in southeast Arkansas, executive director of the Arkansas Good Roads Transportation Council and one of the leading transportation experts in the Delta.

We are honored to have President Glenn Poshard, Southern Illinois University, who is a former Member of Congress and a friend of President Obama; Rev. Dwight Webster, distinguished scholar and pastor of Christian Unity Baptist Church in New Orleans, with many parishioners from the Ninth Ward, Gentilly and other areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina–Rev. Webster is himself a Katrina victim and survivor and is just now getting back into his home that was flooded by Katrina.

USDA Obama administration officials session is Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 16, 1:15 to 4:15 p.m., national USDA headquarters, 104-A USDA Whitten building.

We have confirmations from Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon, President Obama’s appointee who heads up the huge mission area of USDA that handles federal nutrition programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly food stamps, school lunch and other school meals, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition programs and other nutrition programs.

We also have a confirmation from Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Victor Vasquez, who many of you will remember from his role in supporting the Clinton administration’s Delta Regional Initiative when he was head of the national Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community program at USDA under President Clinton.

Grassroots speakers at the USDA session will include:

Donna Raynalds, executive director, Southern Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone

Dr. Robert Cole, East Arkansas Enterprise Community, based in Forrest City;

Mike Ashanti, Heifer International, Helena-West Helena, who leads the innovative activities of the Heifer nonprofit foundation in the Delta;

Dr. Steve Onufrak, a USDA nutrition and anti-obesity expert based in Stoneville, Mississippi;

Buddy Spillers, president of the Macon Ridge Community Development Corp. in Ferriday, Louisiana;

Dr. LaDonna Ford, Medical Director of the LSU Medical Center in Monroe, Louisiana;

Charita Johnson Burgess and Vivian Fry of the Shiloh Distribution Center in western Tennessee.

We will have several Obama administration officials from USDA and other departments, and we look forward to having our first public dialogue with the new administration as a regional group. We certainly have many supporters of President Obama in our coalition, but we need to place constructive pressure on them to get the Delta region higher on their radar screen.

Rep. Marion Berry (AR), Sen. Claire McCaskill and and others are invited. We had 15 Members of Congress last year, but will have fewer this year to make space for Obama administration officials, and also because we have shortened the conference to two days to cut travel costs during this recession.

For the USDA session, we have invited Under Secretary for Administration Pearlie Reed, highest ranking Arkansan in the Obama administration and a native of the east Arkansas Delta who is widely admired in our group.

Please keep in mind that the Wednesday afternoon session is with Obama administration officials and is very important, so schedule a flight that evening that will enable you to stay for that session until 4 p.m.

We also have a group of rooms available for Wednesday, Sept. 16, for those who plan to stay over and do some additional advocacy work on Capitol Hill or the administration on Thursday morning, Sept. 17.

Many people have felt the Radisson at Reagan Airport is a convenient location because it is near the airport and is a fairly short taxi ride away from Capitol Hill. For those not familiar with Washington, DC hotel costs, the rate cited above is much lower than most that are close to Capitol Hill.

We will go over to the meetings from the hotel in groups of taxis as we have in previous years. This substantially reduces your cab fare if you go in groups of three or four and is the fastest way to get around in DC.

If you prefer to stay at another hotel, that is perfectly fine. There are no meetings at the group hotel.

TRAVEL AGENCY–Travel Consultants International, Becky Hawkins, Blytheville, Arkansas, 1-800-764-7660:

Most people make their own travel plans, but if you need a travel agent, we highly recommend Travel Consultants International, an excellent agency based in Blytheville, Arkansas, led by Becky Hawkins. Phone is 1-800-764-7660 and her email is If you do not want to stay at the group hotel and would like to look for another hotel for whatever reason, Becky Hawkins and staff can help you with that. They are also good at finding cheaper airfares for people. Based on previous experience we know Becky Hawkins and Travel Consultants International do a great job.


Grassroots leaders on the agenda include President Glenn Poshard, Southern Illinois University;

Mayor Brad Cole, Carbondale, Illinois, President Larry Peterson, Shawnee Community College of Illinois, Southern Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone officials;

Robert Cole, East Arkansas Enterprise Community, based in Forrest City;

Mike Ashanti, Heifer International, Helena-West Helena;

Mayor Helenor Bell, Hayneville, Alabama;

Dean Tim Todd, School of Business and Public Affairs, Murray State University, western Kentucky;

Mike Marshall, banker and regional leader from Sikeston, Missouri;

a representative from Enterprise Corporation of the Delta, based in Jackson, MS and serving Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi;

Steve Onufrak, a USDA nutrition and anti-obesity expert based in Stoneville, Mississippi;

Bill Triplett, senior adviser to the Delta Regional Authority, Jackson, Mississippi;

Buddy Spillers, president of the Macon Ridge Community Development Corp. in Ferriday, Louisiana;

Dr. LaDonna Ford, Medical Director of the LSU Medical Center in Monroe, Louisiana;

Rev. Dwight Webster, pastor of Christian Unity Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana;

Charita Johnson Burgess of the Shiloh Distribution Center in western Tennessee;

Kenny Gober, Director of the McGehee–Lake Village Housing Authority,

Johnnie Bolin, director of the Arkansas Good Roads Transportation Council;

Mayor Carl Redus of Pine Bluff, Arkansas;

and Robert Dansby of the Edgenics company, as well as two additional Edgenics personnel.

Thanks very much–Lee Powell, MDGC (202) 360-6347