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.

Positive Results in DRA and USDA Nutrition Funding Outcomes

Posted on December 19, 2011 at 01:21 PM

WASHINGTON, DC: The Delta Grassroots Caucus extends our deep appreciation to the bipartisan forces in Congress for two positive outcomes in this fall’s budget debates: an effort in the Senate to cut the Delta Regional Authority budget down to $9.9 million was defeated and the DRA House of Representatives original level of funding at $11.67 million was restored; and most USDA nutrition programs’ funds were increased.

The DRA budget result took place the weekend of Dec. 17-18 and the USDA funding passed in late November.

“In this severe recession we need all the help we can get, so the Delta Caucus commends the great bipartisan work of Members of the Delta delegation such as Sen. Mark Pryor, who was original sponsor of an amendment to set the funding back up to $11.67 million after the Senate had originally cut the figure to $9.9 million, and Sen. Pryor was supported by Sen. Thad Cochran (MS), Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA), Sen. John Boozman (AR), Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), Sen. Richard Shelby (AL), Sen. Mark Kirk (IL) and other senators from our region,” said Lee Powell, Caucus director.

“The House of Representatives voted to keep the funding at the higher level originally, and the Caucus deeply appreciates the work of Rep. Mike Ross, Rep. Rick Crawford and Rep. Tim Griffin of Arkansas, Rep. Terri Sewell (AL), Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (MO), Rep. Cedric Richmond (LA), Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS), Rep. Jerry Costello (IL), Rep. Ed Whitfield (KY), and other Representatives for their support for the DRA,” said Desha County Judge Mark McElroy, Caucus vice-chairman.

“All these Senators and Representatives pledged to the Delta Caucus that they would work for this result as we met with them this fall, and they came through for us and were as good as their word,” Powell said.

“Congress wisely decided to defeat the counterproductive effort to cut the DRA budget, and this is clearly a vote of confidence in the many constructive community and economic development initiatives of the DRA, led by Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill, Alternate Federal Co-Chairman Mike Marshall, chief of staff Bill Triplett, and all the DRA staff and their many supporters in all eight Delta states as well as Washington, DC,” Powell said.

Thanks a million to all the Delta partners whose hard work contributed to this result!

In another major priority for the Delta Caucus, Congress voted increases in funding for most of the vital USDA nutrition programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps), school meals, aid to food banks. “The Delta unfortunately ranks at or near the bottom in food security and nutrition data, so these increases during the severe recession are much needed,” Powell said.

“We all know that many of the activities in Washington, DC have featured more partisan conflict than positive results for most of this year, but these two results are major exceptions to that rule and we should give credit where it is due for the constructive outcomes in the USDA nutrition and DRA budgets,” Powell said.

The USDA nutrition programs not only lead the way in fighting hunger, but also have a positive economic impact:one dollar spent on SNAP increases Gross Domestic Product from $1.73 to $1.79, according to Moody’s Analytics. The Congressional Joint Economic Committee (JEC) recently reported that an increase of $1 billion in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) spending generates 17,900 jobs.

The USDA bill provides a total of $136.6 billion for USDA programs. Highlights of nutrition program funding include:

* SNAP/Food Stamps: $80.4 billion (FY2011 funding was $65.21 billion)

* Child Nutrition Programs: $18.15 billion (FY2011 funding was $17.32 billion)

* National School Lunch Program (NSLP): $10.17 billion (FY2011 funding was $9.98 billion)

* School Breakfast Program: $3.32 billion (FY2011 funding was $3.09 billion)

* Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP): $2.83 billion (FY2011 funding was $2.69 billion)

* The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Commodities: $260.25 million (FY2011 funding was $248 million)

* Two small but superb programs, the Congressional Hunger Center (funded at $2 million) and the Delta Obesity Prevention Research Unit (approximately $3.8 million) were preserved after earlier efforts to cut their budgets.

There were a couple of negative results, such as a relatively small cut in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program: $6.6 billion (FY2011 funding was $6.73 billion), and also a cut in the small but highly meritorious WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program to $16.5 million from the FY 2011 level of $19.96 million. “It makes no sense to give even small cuts to the budget of a vital program such as WIC, and we will work to restore that funding in 2012,” Powell said.

USDA Obesity Prevention Research Unit maintained: We understand that the USDA Delta Obesity Prevention Research Unit will have a budget of approximately $3.8 million. We had several USDA nutrition experts speak at our conference in Washington, DC and are glad that this excellent program is continuing.

As Dr. Margaret Bogle of USDA ARS (based in Little Rock, AR) was quoted as saying in the Delta Caucus spending priorities plan demonstrated at the Washington, DC conference in November, 2011, the Delta unfortunately leads the nation in obesity rates. Obesity in the Delta hampers health and this leads to economic damage in increased health care costs and loss of productivity in the workplace.

The Delta Obesity Prevention Research Unit employed over 200 individuals in the Delta of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi for its research through cooperative agreements with eight universities and two small minority business owners in Jackson, Mississippi who assisted in the research. Any activity that helps put people to work is a plus in today’s economy.