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.

Tribute to Senator Blanche Lincoln for Her Many Years of Great Service for the Delta

Posted on December 22, 2010 at 01:28 PM

Below is a copy of a letter we sent to Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas expressing appreciation for her many years of service to the Delta. Senator Lincoln was a great champion for the Delta Regional Authority, health care, agriculture, and many other vital issues for the economic progress of our region.

Our praise for Senator Lincoln’s work of course in no way diminishes our commitment to work in a bipartisan manner with the new Senator, John Boozman. Senator Boozman has stated his intent to support a larger budget for the Delta Regional Authority. Senator Lincoln had stressed the importance of bipartisanship in her farewell speech in the Senate.

We know Senator Lincoln will continue to do great work in whatever role she chooses to play next. We don’t have any ideas what her plans are. Many people believe she would be an excellent US Secretary of Agriculture. We will certainly be supportive of whatever future role she chooses to play. Lee Powell, MDGC

December 22, 2010

Dear Senator Lincoln:

On behalf of the Delta Grassroots Caucus, I would like to convey our deep appreciation for your great service for Arkansas, the entire Delta region, and our country in the United States Congress. You have a legacy of many historic contributions for the economic progress and better quality of life for the Delta, and we will always remember the good you did for our people.

It would take a book to summarize all of your accomplishments that we wish to express our gratitude for, so we will just list a few of them here:

As a daughter of the Delta, we know that there would not be a Delta Regional Authority without your dedication and leadership in creating that agency, defending it against those who sought to slash its budget or abolish it, and finally leading its expansion to its current permanent role in promoting economic development in the Delta. Many of us who worked in the Clinton administration recall your leadership as the original sponsor of the legislation creating the DRA that was signed into law by President Clinton in late 2000. During the Bush administration, President Bush and even some Democrats cut its budget and attacked the fledgling agency, yet you stood firm and led the bipartisan effort to block the proposed budget cuts and eventually expand the DRA’s budget.

We recall that in 2004, there were many on Capitol Hill who thought the administration would succeed in cutting the DRA budget to $2 million as a step toward eliminating it altogether. With your leadership those efforts were blocked and the budget gradually moved back up to the current level of $13 million. We were glad to see your former aide Chris Masingill appointed with your support for the DRA, and the future now is bright for the agency that you did so much to establish, protect and expand. In your role as the Senate’s champion for the DRA and in so many other areas, you have planted the seeds for a better future for the Delta that we all love.

As chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, you again provided many services for the Delta in helping our farmers, the beneficial nutrition programs, important forestry issues, the wide variety of constructive programs in rural housing, rural utilities, small business and many other rural development initiatives.

The committee called the “agriculture committee” does so much more than just help farmers, and we were so proud that you were the first Arkansan to serve as chair of such an important committee. Not since the days of Wilbur Mills, J. William Fulbright and John McClellan has an Arkansan chaired one of the major Congressional committees. Your leadership led to the passage of the recent child nutrition bill, and so many children not only in the Delta but across the country will benefit from your leadership in those tremendously important programs.

As a daughter of a farmer, of course you had great knowledge of agriculture, which continues to be essential for the economy of Arkansas and the entire Delta. We were fortunate to have a leader who knew so much and cared so much for the people who produce the cotton for our clothes and the food on our tables.

The banking regulation bill was another historic step that will help all regions of the country.

In the health care debate, we know you went through a terribly traumatic experience, but we believe the light of history will place you in a highly favorable place. Our health care system in America is the most expensive of any of the most industrialized nations, and we in the Delta lag far behind the rest of the country and suffer from the worst health care in America. The system was broken and the health care reform was the first step in getting us on the road to do a much better job in this vital field. Without your vote blocking the filibuster and then your crucial vote supporting it, the health care bill would not have passed. Throughout the painful process you steadfastly sought a moderate position and received much unjustified criticism. We know that the health care bill was an imperfect compromise and we have much to do to improve and revise it. But in the end, we believe history will show that, like Congressman Wilbur Mills’ crucial support for Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s, you will be recognized as casting the crucial votes for a deeply needed reform.

This brief letter cannot do justice to your many years of dedicated service for the Delta, but we wanted to convey just a few examples of why you are so deeply appreciated along the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River. Last but not least, we appreciate your warmth as a person to us. When we talked to you we never felt like we were the local people in the presence of a powerful Member of Congress, but another Arkansan who understood us and cared about us and always did your best to do what was right by us.

We applaud your commitment to bipartisanship and civility, which has sadly declined far too much in general in Washington, DC today. In the spirit of your comments during your farewell Senate address about the importance of bipartisanship, we will work in good faith with the new Senator John Boozman, and of course our praise for your leadership does not in any way diminish our commitment to work in a bipartisan way with Senator-Elect Boozman.

We don’t have any idea whether you would be interested in serving as US Secretary of Agriculture at some point in the future, but we would just like to convey our view that you would be an excellent Secretary over USDA. We will be supportive of you in whatever future role you choose to play.

We will never forget you and know that in whatever future role you decide to play, we will do whatever we can to be helpful. You will always be welcome at any and all events of the Delta Grassroots Caucus. You always participated in our conferences every year and gave such warm and knowledgeable presentations that were the highlights of those events. We just wanted to take this opportunity to tell you how much we will miss you as a Senator, and how much we appreciated your great service for the Mississippi Delta region. We know you will continue to do a great deal of good in whatever future role you choose to pursue.

Best wishes,

Lee Powell, executive director speaking on behalf of the entire Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347