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.

Please Register ASAP for Oct. 17-18, 2013 Delta Conference in Memphis, TN

Posted on August 08, 2013 at 01:21 PM

We will deal with a series of pressing issues at the Delta Grassroots Caucus Conference at the Memphis, Tennessee Agri-Center International on Oct. 17-18, 2013, including the SNAP nutrition, agriculture, and rural development sections in the farm bill; job creation and economic recovery; broadband expansion, transportation and other infrastructure; Delta heritage tourism; educational improvements and other regional issues.

Please register ASAP because we are putting together the attendees list.

Co-Chairmen for this conference will be Caucus Director Lee Powell and Minnie Bommer, the first African American woman elected to the Covington, Tennessee City Council and a veteran Delta regional leader for many years. Ms. Bommer is one of the key advisers for this conference and will help move the program along on Oct. 17-18 in Memphis.

Mayor A. C. Wharton of Memphis is confirmed as one of the luncheon speakers on Friday, Oct. 18, and we have invited Congressman Steve Cohen, who did a great job speaking at our conference in West Memphis, Arkansas last year.

Former Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross will speak on Friday, Oct. 18 at 10 a.m. and will be introduced by Helena-West Helena’s Kevin Smith, former aide to then Gov. Bill Clinton and US Sen. Dale Bumpers and a long-time Delta regional advocate. The other front-runner for the Arkansas gubernatorial race, former Congressman Asa Hutchinson, has been invited.

Other key speakers invited: We have invited US Sen. Mark Pryor, Rep. Tom Cotton (now a candidate for the US Senate), and Rep. Rick Crawford of Arkansas, former Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson, Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis, and are in the process of inviting other federal, state and regional officials. The Members of Congress and gubernatorial candidates have unusually busy schedules and they usually confirm later in the process.

We have voices from eight states to include and a wide range of issues to cover, so we emphasize a series of fairly brief presentations with no lengthy speeches. Some of the other confirmed speakers include:

• Jeff Wood, community relations manager for Tyson Foods, Inc., who has a great deal of expertise on nutrition programs and other key regional issues;

• Lane Kidd, noted transportation expert and president of the Arkansas Trucking Association;

• President Glen Fenter of Mid-South Community College in West Memphis, who is involved in a wide range of impressive initiatives for the region’s progress;

• Steve Jones of Southern Bancorp, one of the leading community and economic development insitutions in the region, and DRA Alternate for the state of Arkansas;

• Alan Gumbel of the Memphis Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association;

• veteran Delta regional advocate Minnie Bommer, who is the first African American woman ever elected to the City Council of Covington, Tennessee;

• Mayor Bill Luckett of Clarksdale, Mississippi;

• Melissa Rice McGowan, a hunger and nutrition expert with Feeding America southeast Missouri food bank network in Cape Girardeau, Missouri;

• broadband expansion expert Millie Atkins of CenturyLink in Monroe, Louisiana;

• Srikant Gir, Co-Director of the BioFuels Institute, University of Memphis;

• Senchel Matthews, Heifer International in Memphis, manager for the Seeds of Change project in east Arkansas;

• John Charles Wilson, president of Agri-Center International, our event site that has the world’s largest urban farm, a large farmers’ market, does research on biofuels and many other constructive activities;

• Loretta Daniel, Murray State University in western Kentucky, director of MSU Regional Business and Innovation Center and a steadfast supporter of the Delta Caucus for many years;

• Bob Nash, president of Bob J. Nash & Associates, former White House Presidential Personnel Director and USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development in President Clinton’s administration;

• Janis Kearney, former White House aide in the Clinton administration, author of many books, including a recent biography of famous civil rights leader Daisy Bates;

• We will have a number of information tables on various Delta activities, including one from Janis Kearney and one from Jon Chadwell of the Newport Economic Development Commission highlighting various innovative activities in the City of Newport, Arkansas;

• Cornel Martin, president of DQSC, Inc., in New Orleans, leader of the team that currently manages the famous steamboat, the Delta Queen, and that plans to buy the boat and return her to her travels along the Mississippi River (instead of buying docked as a floating hotel as she is now in Chattanooga, Tennessee) if the Congressional exemption is passed this fall allowing the boat to travel once again.

–President Beverly Robertson of the National Civil Rights Museum;

–Greg Maxted, executive director of the Harahan Bridge Project over the Mississippi from West Memphis to Memphis;

–Dr. Steve Bares of the Memphis BioWorks Foundation;

Other speakers will be announced as they are confirmed.


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 3:30 p.m.

From 3:45 to 4:15 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 17: Rep. Mark McElroy’s informal social get-together at the group hotel bar, Courtyard by Marriott at Memphis Germantown. Rep. McElroy is our social chairman and will kick things off at the Courtyard by Marriott for those who would like to have a beverage before going over to the conference starting right at 4:30 p.m. at the Agri-Center. There is profound interest as to whether Rep. McElroy will be doing his impression of Elvis Presley, or his equally impression of Lynyrd Skynyrd, or whether he will receive enough bribes not to sing. This will be unveiled on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Stay tuned.

REGISTRATION: You register by sending in the early registration fees by Sept. 30, 2013.

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.

Registration fees are increased to $150 each after the early registration deadline passes on Sept. 30.

GROUP DISCOUNT: If you can get together with a group of at least five partners by the early registration deadline of Sept. 30, we will give a group discount down to $75 each.

This is done as an incentive to help bring new partners into the organization and also help cut your costs. 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 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 for those who want to stay an extra night on Friday and Saturday morning, especially to visit the National Civil Rights Museum on Oct. 19, Saturday morning: 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.

Again, 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 in Memphis 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.

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

Key issues at the Memphis conference: 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 nutrition, agriculture and rural development programs in the farm bill, 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.

Jim and Nick’s Barbecue provides catering for Thursday evening and Friday luncheon: For the Thursday session from 4:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. there will be some barbecue at the opening session, although most people eat lightly at the opening session and then go out for a large dinner afterward on their own for further socializing and networking opportunities.

Jim and Nick’s has a great reputation for their barbecue. Rex Nelson, president of Arkansas Independent Colleges and Universities, is a great source of knowledge about the best restaurants in our region and is a tremendous admirer of the food in the Delta and he says he has heard many good reports about Jim and Nick’s. So we’re all looking forward to the barbecue and the many fine restaurants that are very near the Agri-Center and the group hotel for the post-opening session dinner. Everybody does this on their own.


Fine restaurant on the Agri-Center premises, and the group hotel Courtyard by Marriott has a good restaurant for those planning to have a big dinner right after the opening session: 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.

The Courtyard by Marriott has a good restaurant for those who would like to go back to the group hotel for dinner at 7:45 p.m., and there are other good restaurants in the area near the group hotel and the Agri-Center.

There will be a luncheon in the meeting hall on Friday, Oct. 18 catered by JIm ‘N Nick’s Barbecue.

We plan to end by 3:30 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.

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).

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 west 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.

Thanks—Delta Caucus board of directors (202) 360-6347