By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
Flooding and flood protection was the major topic at the 84th annual meeting of Delta Council Friday.
Delta Council is an economic development organization that analyzes, troubleshoots, and fundraises efforts to maintain and improve the economy of the Mississippi Delta, with special attention paid to the Delta’s agricultural economy.
Woods Eastland, president of the council, spoke about the current flooding disaster in the south Delta which is at the forefront of the council’s concerns.
“The south Delta has experienced flooding for 155 days and Vicksburg has remained above flood stage for over 120 days,” Eastland said. “Over half a million acres have been under water during this event, and the south Delta has experienced the largest and longest backwater flood ever.”
Eastland thanked Gov. Phil Bryant and others for supporting the development of a pumping plant in the Yazoo River that can potentially relieve flooding issues in that area.
“Due to their efforts, we might finally see the day that the Yazoo backwater area of the south Delta is given the flood protection plant that had been promised and that they deserve, just like the other 22 areas in the lower Mississippi valley that have pumping plants,” said Eastland.
Bryant, who was a featured speaker at the business session, said, “If there is anything I want to achieve in my last year of my last term, it is getting those pumps to the Delta.
“We are made of stern stuff in the Mississippi Delta. We will not only endure this, we will prevail.”
Bryant introduced the session’s keynote speaker David Abney, the current chairmen and CEO of United Postal Service.
Abney was born in Cleveland and grew up in Greenwood. He worked as a truck loader for UPS while attending Delta State University and now leads the company. UPS is in 220 countries and delivers 20 million packages a day.
“Back then, it wasn’t just your parents that made sure you had the right values,” Abney said. “The entire neighborhood felt it was their responsibility. In fact, if you did something wrong, often times it wasn’t your parents that disciplined you; it was one of your neighbors.
“You learn a strong sense of right and wrong.
“(The Delta) is one of the friendliest places that you could ever grow up. You don’t really appreciate that if you stay right here, but if you go to other places, you find out it’s not quite the same.”
Abney identified three concepts he finds common between UPS and the Mississippi Delta, the first being global trade.
“Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States,” Abney said. “So if we’re going to thrive in this digital world we live in, we have to be able to reach these other markets.”
Abney said he hopes the current trade disputes the U.S. is involved in turn out well as many stakeholders depend on a good outcome.
Second, Abney discussed technological innovation and how it has allowed both UPS and the Mississippi Delta to expand their reach.
“One of the big advantages that this digital economy is that geographic location is not going to matter nearly as much,” Abney said. “What that means to businesses here in the Delta is that you can compete globally but live locally, and that is a huge difference. That was not the case in previous generations.”
Finally, Abney discussed the importance of connectivity, specifically through transportation infrastructure.
“UPS has 125,000 trucks on the road. You may think the last thing we want is an increase in the motor fuel tax, and that is simply not the case,” Abney said. “For every five minutes that those drivers get held up due to traffic congestion, it costs UPS $114 million a year.
“We have to have a sustainable fund to keep our bridges and airports and all those things completely up-to-date.”
Others present at the meeting included Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Delta State University president William LaForge.
Dr. Jeannie Barlow, program director at the United States Geological Survey Lower Mississippi Gulf Water Science Center, gave a presentation titled “The Delta’s Groundwater Aquifier: Our Greatest Challenge and Our Greatest Opportunity” as a part of the Delta 1000 session.
Bailey Runnels from Bayou Academy was the recipient of the Delta Council’s honor graduate scholarship.
Docia England was the recipient of the 2019 Good Middling Community Service Award.
The Delta Council presented several achievement awards, including: Outstanding Rice Producer, Gibson Steele, Hollandale; Outstanding Soybean Producer, Leah and David Carr, Clarksdale; Outstanding Cotton Ginner, Haywood Wilson, Charleston; Conservation Farmer of the Year, Terry Maxwell, Inverness; Outstanding Contributions to Hardwood Forestry, Lamar Dorris, Yazoo City; Outstanding Contributions to Aquaculture, Archie Tucker, Stoneville; Researcher of the Year, Dr. Les Torrans, Stoneville; Pace-Setter Awards, Butch Scipper and Charles Walker, Marks.