Senator Seeks Support from Heads of the USDA and Army Corps of Engineers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At two separate hearings this week, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) called for cooperation from federal agencies to address the short- and long-term needs of flooded residents in the Mississippi Delta and farmers up and down the Mississippi River facing a lost crop year.

Hyde-Smith addressed the Mississippi crisis in two subcommittee hearings of the Senate Appropriations Committee where Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and R.D. James, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) testified.

“Flooding in the Delta is the number one devastation problem we have in Mississippi right now,” Hyde-Smith said.  “I will continue working to see that federal agencies are doing everything they can to help us resolve this problem now and well into the future.”

Senator Hyde-Smith Discusses Flood Protection in the Mississippi Delta
VIDEO:  Senator Hyde-Smith Discusses Flood Protection in the Mississippi Delta

At an Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee hearing Wednesday, Hyde-Smith said the Corps was “absolutely correct” in its 2007 assessment that not constructing the last remaining feature of a comprehensive flood control project for the South Delta area “would continue to adversely impact the standard of living for residents” and “limit economic opportunity for area residents.”

James, who toured the Yazoo Backwater region in late March, acknowledged that flood control improvements authorized as part of the Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T) project have not been constructed and deserve renewed attention. 

“This is one of the areas that is not complete,” James testified.  “The small towns there, they are people [who] are less fortunate than most, and they have no way of rising up or getting the attention of a major newspaper to show their plight.  It’s a bad situation.  We, the Corps of Engineers, need to look at it.  All the other agencies that might be involved with it need to take a look at it, take another look at it. And, frankly, the Congress does.”

Senator Hyde-Smith Discusses Crop Insurance in Flood-prone Areas
VIDEO:  Senator Hyde-Smith Discusses Crop Insurance in Flood-prone Areas

At an Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing Thursday morning, Hyde-Smith addressed the economic impact of flooding on agriculture and a 2018 Farm Bill provision instructing the USDA to conduct research and development on more affordable crop insurance policies for cotton, soybeans and corn farmers within the Lower Mississippi Valley affected by frequent flooding. Hyde-Smith authored this provision.

“In recent years Mississippi farmers, particularly those who farm the fertile lands within close proximity to the Mississippi River, have been subject to more frequent and severe flooding.  Some have even lost an entire crop two or three years in a row,” Hyde-Smith said.  “This has made it difficult for them to find an affordable crop insurance policy that provides them the level of protection they need.”

Hyde-Smith asked Perdue to commit the USDA Risk Management Agency to work with these farmers affected by flooding to ensure they have adequate and affordable crop insurance options.  Perdue stated his willingness to review the issue.

“The premise of the crop insurance is statutorily sound or statistically sound, and we don’t need to violate that principle,” Perdue said.  “Where houses have flood insurance, we may want to look at it from a crop flood insurance provision to have something like national flood insurance that way.”

“I’d love to discuss that with you further,” he said.

Senate Appropriations Committee coverage of the hearings is available here:
•    Review of the FY2020 Budget Requests for Army Corps of Engineers & Bureau of Reclamation
•    Review of the FY2020 Budget Request for USDA