By Paisley Boston
BC Staff Writer
Catfish and Seersucker Suits are two elements closely associated with Delta Council Annual meetings.
On Friday Delta Council hosted its 79th Annual meeting.
Although the rain staggered in throughout the event, attendees were large in number.
Individuals came from throughout the United States to take part in this joyous occasion, which keynote speaker Deputy Secretary for the United States Department of Agriculture Krysta Harden said was a tribute to farmers.
"Farmers make up about one percent of our population and they provide goods for 99 percent of the population," said Harden.
State of Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant introduced her.
"Krysta and I have a few things in common. I was born in the Mississippi Delta and she was born in South Georgia – we are both southerners. She is deeply rooted in the farming profession because she and her family were peanut farmers," said Bryant.
Harden comes from three generations of southwest Georgia farmers with a proud farming heritage that dates back to the 1800s.
As a daughter of farmers, she understands the changing face of agriculture over time, and the need for commonsense policies and programs that create and expand opportunities in rural America.
In her role as Deputy Secretary, Harden builds on Secretary Vilsack's leadership to support a diverse and abundant agriculture sector, expand new markets for agriculture at home and abroad, further strengthen conservation of our nation's resources, and promote a thriving biobased economy.
Harden's highest priority is to ensure that beginning farmers and the growing ranks of agriculture - women, young people, immigrants, socially disadvantaged producers, returning veterans and retirees - have access to the programs and support they need.
Since 2009, Harden has held USDA leadership positions as Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations and Chief of Staff to the Secretary.
Harden was instrumental in implementing programs under the 2008 Farm Bill that have resulted in record investments in America's farms and rural communities, record agricultural exports and record conservation efforts. Harden worked to pass and implement the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, ensuring the availability of nutrition assistance to struggling Americans.
A chief advocate of conservation, Harden continues leading efforts to build close stakeholder relationships with an ultimate goal of enhancing land and water conservation, improving economic opportunities through increased outdoor activities and expanding modern forest management.
During her speech she told a story about the son of a farmer.
"A while ago, I remember speaking with the son of a farmer. His father was 92 years old and due to an accident, he lost his memory. Doctors tried hard to help the elderly man regain his memory. They tried to get him to recall just one thing that he could remember but he struggled to do so," said Harden.
"After a few minutes, the man looked down at his hands and then up at the doctor and said, "I am a farmer," she added.
"This was so touching to me because I am certain that the sons and daughters of farmers know what it feels like to watch your father work so hard and take so many risks to provide for 99 percent of the U.S.," continued Harden.
She also spoke about the 2014 farm bill.
"This bill is so valuable and important to all of us. I would like to thank Senator Thad Cochran for all that he has done to support us with this bill. He fought very hard for it. Even when he and I are on different sides and we do not see eye to eye, we are still friends after it all," said Harden.
"I wish more people in Washington could understand the work that Senator Cochran does," she added.
The Agriculture Act of 2014 passed the Senate with an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 68-32 on February 4th, 2014. The Farm Bill was signed into law on February 7th, 2014.
The new Farm Bill will allow USDA to continue record accomplishments on behalf of the American people, while providing new opportunity and creating jobs across rural America.
It will enable USDA to further expand markets for agricultural products at home and abroad, strengthen conservation efforts, create new opportunities for local and regional food systems and grow the biobased economy.
It will provide a dependable safety net for America's farmers, ranchers and growers.
It will maintain important agricultural research, and ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all Americans.
Numerous awards were also presented during the meeting including the 2014 Good Middling Lady award, which recognizes individuals who make significant efforts to promote community and economic vitality in the Mississippi Delta.
Candy Davis of Shaw received the honor this year.
Also, over 100 Delta Honor Graduates were nominated by their school administrators based on academic achievement and community involvement to receive a $2,500 scholarship.
Martin "Blake" Pugh, a graduating senior from Independence High School in Tate County, was awarded the scholarship.
After all of the awards were given and much homage was paid to farmers, attendees proceeded outside to enjoy a nice catfish dinner on Delta State University's historic quad, while enjoying music played by Alphonso Sanders and his son, Keith.