Reverence, Reflection, and Reckoning: A Visit to the Mississippi Delta

Two white men wearing seersucker suits holding a plaque for Rice Farmer of the Year
Gibson Steele, MS Rice Farmer of the Year
Jun 14, 2019
CLEVELAND, MS -- Farmers, bankers, and Deltans of all walks of life came together here last week for the 84th annual meeting of the Delta Council, the regions’ foremost economic development group representing 18 Delta and part-Delta counties in northwest Mississippi.  Established in 1935, Delta Council brings together area agricultural, business, and professional leadership, and is one of the state’s most influential organizations.

This year’s meeting was kicked off with an invocation and a moment of silence in remembrance of the late Senator Thad Cochran, a respected and accomplished legislator and man of humble character who loved Mississippi and the Delta, in particular, who was a great supporter of the U.S. rice industry.  

The keynote speaker, David Abney, CEO of United Parcel Service, the world’s largest package delivery company, reminisced about growing up in the Delta and also talked about how the value of improved infrastructure and global trade benefits the lives and economies of all Americans.

Gibson Steele, a rice farmer from Greenville, was recognized as Outstanding Rice Producer of the Year.  

Throughout the morning, a slideshow played in the auditorium recognizing outstanding achievements by Delta Council members, and also illustrating the effects of the rampant and unexpected flooding that has plagued the region in 2019.  The flooding conditions are so bad in some areas that many producers have completely foregone planting this year.  

While conditions were soggy, the spirit of resolve that spilled out from the auditorium was as dry and sunny as ever.  Woods Eastland, the outgoing Delta Council president, said, “We, as Deltans, will overcome this situation and come out better for it.”

“Despite the discouraging growing conditions, the Delta Council annual meeting rose to the occasion,” said Josh Hankins, USA Rice director of Grower Relations and Stewardship, who attended the meeting.  “Every time I come here, I am impressed by the can-do attitude of the citizens of the Delta.  The sense of community and perseverance is truly over-whelming and I know the farmers of this area will come back better than ever next year.”

At the conclusion of scheduled programming, the large crowd enjoyed the traditional fried catfish luncheon on the Quadrangle of the Bologna Performing Arts Center at Delta State University.