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.

Memphis, Tennessee Agri-Center International to Host Oct. 17-18 Delta Event

Posted on June 25, 2013 at 10:42 AM

The Delta Grassroots Caucus fall regional conference on Oct. 17-18, 2013 will be held at the Memphis, Tennessee Agri-Center International, an easily accessible and centrally located facility.

Our priorities will be job creation and community and economic development in the eight-state Greater Delta, Mid-South region from St. Louis, Missouri and East St. Louis, Illinois down to New Orleans, Louisiana and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt.

Participants will include Mayor A. C. Wharton of Memphis, Tennessee, Members of Congress from the region, state, regional and federal officials, and grassroots leaders from all eight states.

In this posting we will cover the following subjects:

1) Basic schedule and registration for Oct. 17-18 Delta conference

2) Brief overview of the subjects to be covered at the conference, including an update on the deeply disappointing failure of the House to pass the farm bill last week

3) A brief overview of the Memphis Agri-Center International

4) Directions to Memphis Agri-Center International coming from four directions

5)Group hotel, which is the Courtyard by Marriott at Memphis-Germantown. Call the hotel at (901) 751-0230 and say you are with the Delta Caucus to get the discount group rate for Oct. 17. For those who wish to stay the night of Oct. 18, there is a group rate for that night as well.


Opening session: Thursday, Oct. 17 from 4:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 18 session: from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

REGISTRATION: You register by sending in the registration fees.

Registration fees are $125 for those who have not paid their annual membership dues of at least $25, and $100 for those who have paid their annual membership dues.

GROUP DISCOUNT: If you can get together with a group of at least five partners, we will give a group discount down to $75 each. This is done as an incentive to help bring new partners into the organization. We are always looking for new partners committed to advocating for a brighter economic future for our region.

Please make out the registration fee check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to our office in the Washington, DC area:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

GROUP EMAIL NEWSLETTER LIST: If you would like to get involved with our organization or know others who you believe would like to get involved, please send a request to be placed on the Delta Caucus group email list to Lee Powell, executive director, at

Group hotel and other specifics will be sent out as we continue finalizing the details.

Brief Overview of Top Priorities and Exasperating Gridlock regarding the Farm Bill

Along with advocacy at the state and federal governmental levels, we place a great deal of emphasis on the private sector in disseminating information about role models and best practices for regional community and economic development.

We work on a broad range of issues, including small business/entrepreneurialism job creation, rural economic development, nutrition and health care for underserved areas, transportation, housing, broadband expansion and other infrastructure issues, Delta heritage tourism, renewable energy/energy efficiency and green jobs, workforce development, and other key regional issues.

FEEDBACK ON PRIORITIES: Any short list of priorities will necessarily leave some important initiatives out, but we are always open to feedback about additional issues that anyone believes should be included in the short list of priorities.

Farm bill: Passing a farm bill that will sustain the vital USDA nutrition safety net, fund the crucial USDA Rural Development programs in housing, rural small business, infrastructure, renewable energy and other key rural initiatives, and provide a counter-cyclical safety net for family farmers are one of our private sector, grassroots advocacy organization’s top priorities this year.

We were deeply disappointed that the gridlock in Washington, DC continues to be so bad that the US House of Representatives failed to pass the farm bill last week. We will continue monitoring this issue and encourage all of you to have your voices heard to your Members of Congress.

The House version was flawed in having a huge cut of $20.5 billion in the bedrock SNAP (food stamp) program. By failing to pass a farm bill at all, the House caused major complications for the still very important agricultural sector of our regional and national economy.

Nutrition issues are especially poignant for the Delta, which suffers from the worst food insecurity levels in America. As we have frequently emphasized, SNAP is the main program that prevents economically distressed Americans from facing severe hunger problems. It also has a beneficial economic impact. While most of our partners would prefer no cuts at all in such an essential program, the Senate version has much smaller cuts and is relatively speaking far better than the House version.

The Senate version also made progress in correcting bills that were proposed last year that would have unfairly treated Midwestern and Northern farmers far better than Southern farmers. There should not be a regional bias in the farm bill.

The Department of Agriculture and the “farm bill” give an inaccurate sense of how enormous USDA’s impact is, for it includes the nutrition programs that are absolutely necessary for both rural and urban America, the wide-ranging Rural Development programs, as well as the agricultural programs. This is vital for all of us.

We again encourage leaders from both parties to learn from this latest partisan debacle, abandon the politics of gridlock, and follow a spirit of practical compromise that will produce a farm bill that the great majority of the people can support.

Brief Remarks about Memphis Agri-Center International

The Memphis Agri-Center International is a self-sustaining nonprofit organization including a variety of facilities, including the world’s largest urban farm and research test facility.

We of course include the economically distressed neighborhoods in Memphis, Little Rock, New Orleans, Jackson and other urban areas as part of our mission in economic change, although historically many of the most impoverished areas have been in the rural Delta and small towns. The health of the agricultural sector is one among many initiatives we work on and by meeting in this facility we are not in any way trying to over-emphasize the importance of the farm sector to the neglect of other economic activities that are just as important. However, agriculture is still a big part of our economy, the Delta is one of the world’s “bread baskets,” and the Agric-Center promotes many constructive initiatives such as renewable energy, farmers’ markets and aid to family farmers, scientific agricultural research, and other notable causes.

Agricenter International’s goals are to help provide economic development and improved quality of life by facilitating agricultural research, educational programs, environmental conservation, natural area preservation and recreational opportunities. The center promotes conservation, wildlife preservation, environmental responsibility and other constructive goals through such facilities as a Wildlife Observation Tower, a farmers’ market featuring farmers from the local region, public forums, utilizing their urban farm for scientific progress.

The Agri-Center is unique. When you are there, you would think you are in the middle of farm country because you are surrounding by the large urban farm, but in reality you are in the middle of the large urban area of Memphis.

The Agri-Center has a lengthy historical connection with the Delta regional movement. It housed the offices of the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission. Alan Gumbel, who is now Director of Performance and Quality Management for the Memphis Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA), was a key staff member for the Commission and still remembers his old office at the center.

Lee Powell and other USDA officials in the 1990s held meetings at the Agri-Center during the Clinton administration promoting farmers’ markets. The old Lower Mississippi Delta Development Center, which did a great deal of consrtructive work in the 1990s and the early 2000s, used to have its offices in the Agri-Center.

One of the biggest advantages that Memphis in general and the Agri-Center in particular have is the central location, being a convenient drive for many of our partners in Memphis, west Tennessee, northern Mississippi, western Kentucky, southeast Missouri, southern Illinois, and the easternmost parts of Arkansas. It’s also not a terribly long trip from northern Louisiana and east Alabama, although our region is so vast that any location we choose will require some significant travel for some of our partners.

The Agri-Center is close to inter-state highways and other main transportation arteries. We’ll be sending out directions on how to get there from several directions a little later on.

For the opening session, we will have food and drinks at the session from 4:30 to 7”45 p.m., although many of our folks often like to eat a little at the session and then go out for a fine meal afterward.

Fine restaurant on the Agri-Center premises: On a practical and recreational note, the Agri-Center has a fine restaurant in its complex called The Butcher Shop, and many of our partners may want to have dinner there after we wrap up the opening session at 7:45 p.m.

There will be a luncheon in the meeting hall on Friday, Oct. 18.

Memphis musical, historical and cultural tourist attractions: Memphis has tourist attraction such as the Beale Street Delta blues and jazz places, Graceland, the National Civil Rights Museum, so you may want to stay an extra night to see those sights.

The National Civil Rights Museum, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, has a superb collection of exhibits and videos about the history of the civil rights movement. Beverly Robertson has been a great speaker at previous events and we are inviting her to speak again this year.

We plan to end by 3 p.m. to give plenty of time for people who would like to spend Friday evening, Oct. 18, seeing some of the sights Memphis has to offer.

We are not planning a big conference in Washington, DC, but will do a small-scale committee meeting there in November:

We do not believe it would be a good use of our organization’s time and the vast majority of our partners’ time to bring a large group of 100 or so grassroots partners to Washington, DC with the gridlock still so bad and the economy still sluggish. However, we will bring a small legislative advocacy committee to hold some small-scale meetings with Congressional and executive branch officials in November, 2013. That date has not been confirmed but it may be Nov. 12 to 14, 2013.

The debacle of the farm bill’s defeat was another example of how bad the partisan gridlock still is. We can’t give up urging the powers that be to end this nonsense and get on with the people’s business that they were elected to do.

This will be only be about 20 officials. We will meet in small settings. If you are interested in going to Washington, DC with this group please advise Lee Powell, executive director at or by phone at 202-360-6347.

Directions to Memphis Agri-Center International from four different directions

From Nashville, Tennessee:

Travel I-40 west, exit Germantown Road (exit 16A). Go south on Germantown Road approximately 5 miles. You will go under the overpass at Walnut Grove Road, turn right at the stop light at Timbercreek. This is the entrance…Agricenter Expo Center is the large grayish white building, Show Place Arena is the large yellowish building on your left immediately past the Butcher Shop Restaurant.

From Little Rock, Arkansas:

Travel I-40 east across the bridge into downtown Memphis, follow I-40 to I-240 east. Take Walnut Grove (exit 13) heading east. Go east on Walnut Grove approximately 2 ½ miles. Turn right into the Agricenter entrance… Agricenter Expo Center is the large grayish white building on the right past the Ducks Unlimited entrance, Show Place Arena is the large yellowish building on your left past the Farmer’s Market (Red Barn).

From Jackson, Mississippi:

Travel I-55 north towards Memphis. Follow signs to I-240 east (exit 6A). Follow I-240 east until you reach Walnut Grove (exit 13) heading east. Go east on Walnut Grove approximately 2 ½ miles. Turn right into the Agricenter entrance… Agricenter Expo Center is the large grayish white building on the right past the Ducks Unlimited entrance, Show Place Arena is the large yellowish building on your left past the Farmer’s Market (Red Barn).

From St. Louis, Missouri:

Travel I-55 south towards Arkansas. When freeway forks, keep left to Memphis. Follow to I-40 to I-240 east. Take Walnut Grove (exit 13) heading east. Go east on Walnut Grove approximately 2 ½ miles. Turn right into the Agricenter entrance… Agricenter Expo Center is the large grayish white building on the right past the Ducks Unlimited entrance, Show Place Arena is the large yellowish building on your left past the Farmer’s Market (Red Barn).

Group hotel is the Courtyard by Marriott at Memphis-Germantown

To get the group discount hotel rate, call the Courtyard by Marriott at Memphis-Germantown at (901) 751-0230 and say you are with the Delta Caucus. There are king rooms for $104 and doubles for $109.

Many people will want to stay just for the night of Oct. 17, check out the morning of Oct. 18. The conference is scheduled to end about 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18.

Memphis cultural, historical and musical attractions: Some people who have not seen the major attractions in Memphis may want to stay on for Friday, Oct. 18. Memphis offers such attractions as the Beale Street blues and jazz halls such as B.B. King’s place, Graceland, and others.

The National Civil Rights Museum is open on Saturday morning, Oct. 19, for those who wanted to stay on Friday night, Oct. 18. For many of us the greatest attraction is the National Civil Rights Museum, which has great exhibits and videos about the history of the civil rights movement and is based at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968.