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Agriculture is a real business, needs real help

Agriculture in Mississippi is an almost after thought these days in Washington.

Despite the fact that Mississippi farmers lost nearly $500 million last year because of torrential rains and floods, policy makers in Washington do not feel the need to provide aid.

In an exclusive story in today’s Mississippi Business Journal, the agriculture relief backers in the Senate, including the bill’s co-sponsors Cochran, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), attached disaster assistance for farmers of $1.5 billion on the jobs bill, which had gained wide bipartisan support and the backing of President Barack Obama.

However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) unexpectedly quashed the legislation. Reid said he wanted a trimmed bill to “keep at bay criticism that the Senate was producing yet more legislation loaded with special deals.”

We understand they need to keep “pork” projects to a minimum.

What we don’t understand is why the Mississippi farmers must take a back seat to other legislation.

Why can’t agriculture aid stand on its own?

As a gauge of the magnitude of the disaster, in Nov. 2009 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared 79 of Mississippi’s 82 counties disaster areas. The U.S. Small Business Administration would subsequently make available economic injury disaster loans to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private nonprofits of all sizes in all 82 counties.

While,Sen. Reid is worried about his image, dozens if not hundreds of Mississippi farmers may not be able to afford to plant a crop this spring.

These are real problems and real people in Mississippi, and agriculture is a real industry and a real business, whether any politicians want to admit it or not.

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