By Tommy Horton
Is it really possible for a Democratic senator from Michigan to visit the Mississippi Delta and find common ground with Southern farmers? If you had told me three years ago that this could happen, I wouldn’t have believed it. But recently I saw how bipartisanship and mutual interests can carry the day when it comes to ag policy and finding consensus in the political world. In short, Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s recent visit to Cleveland, Miss., to address the annual meeting of the Delta Council was nothing short of remarkable.
On the surface, it might have seemed unlikely that she could make a connection with this audience, but the Senate Ag Committee chairwoman knew exactly what to say. She delivered some good news to the audience and was surrounded by Mississippi’s two senators – Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker. It was the perfect combination.
The Senate Ag Committee had just voted 15-5 to approve its version of the new Farm Bill. The significance of the vote wasn’t lost on the Delta Council crowd, which is made up of farmers and anyone with an interest in agriculture in the region. Thanks to the assistance of Sen. Cochran, who is now the Ranking Member on the committee, a workable compromise was achieved that provides equitable treatment for Southern commodities.
As Sen. Stabenow addressed the crowd, she went out of her way to thank Cochran for helping push the bill through the committee on such a bipartisan vote. She then talked about Michigan and Mississippi having so much in common. Agriculture plays a big role in both states’ economies, and she reiterated that more can be accomplished in Congress when legislators work to find common ground rather than being so partisan.
That comment was the highlight of her presentation and drew loud applause from the audience.
It was reassuring to hear Sen. Stabenow talk about the urgent need to move this bill out of her committee. She saw the benefit in working with Sen. Cochran, and the first hurdle has been cleared. With any luck, the new Farm Bill can become a reality, and President Obama will be ready to sign it this summer.
After she made her speech to the big crowd inside the Bologna Center at Delta State University and participated in a press conference outside the building, what did Sen. Stabenow do? She walked over to a table, shook a few more hands, sat down and enjoyed some Delta catfish.
It was a nice reward after such a successful trip to Mississippi.
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