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Thompson supports disaster bill

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., announced he will support efforts to deliver disaster aid to Mid-South farmers and producers in other regions who experienced yield and quality losses due to the unprecedented rainfall during the 2009 harvest.

Thompson, who represents most of the Delta region of Mississippi, said he believes legislation introduced by Reps. Travis Childers, D-Miss., and Marion Berry, D-Ark., is urgently needed to prevent an economic disaster in the Delta and other portions of the state and the Mid-South.

Officials with the Delta Council, the Delta’s chamber of commerce, thanked Thompson for his support of the Childers-Berry bill. The legislation closely tracks that which was introduced in the Senate in late November by Sens. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

“We appreciate the strong support of Chairman Bennie Thompson,” said Delta Council President Travis Satterfield of Benoit. “The chairman has always stepped up to support agriculture in the Second District, and he recognizes that this year was an unprecedented disaster that threatens the financial viability of not only farmers and agricultural businesses, but our rural communities that depend on their success.”

In Mississippi, 79 of 82 counties have been granted primary disaster designations by the USDA based on a minimum 30 percent loss for at least one crop in each county. Agriculture economists at Mississippi State University estimate that state crop losses are nearing $485 million, exceeding 30 percent of the state’s overall crop value.

Based on crop reports, MSU noted that nearly 64 percent of the state’s sweet potatoes, 50 percent of cotton, 44 percent of soybeans, and 41 percent of grain sorghum will also experience losses this year.

“We look forward to working with Chairman Thompson and the entire delegation to ensure passage of this measure,” said Delta Council Executive Vice President Chip Morgan. “He is a critical player on all issues being debated on Capitol Hill, and his strong support is crucial to getting the measure advanced.”

Across the Mississippi River, University of Arkansas agricultural economists said their estimate of crop losses in the state remains at $309 million.

The figure, released on Dec. 10, represents a 9.6 percent loss from estimated total gross receipts for corn, cotton, cottonseed, grass hay, rice, sorghum and soybeans. On a per-acre basis, the average loss for the crops is $43. The $309.3 million figure was part of a Nov. 13 estimate.

A final estimate for the 2009 crop year will be issued in January.

“The latest report reflects harvesting progress. As of Dec. 7, rice, corn and sorghum harvest has been completed, while cotton and soybeans were 98 percent harvested,” said Eric Wailes, professor of agricultural economics and agribusiness for the U of A Division of Agriculture.

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