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(UPDATE) Barbour, Gang of Six can’t halt Choctaws’ casino

July 20th, 2010 Comments off

(UPDATE) — In a story published on our website this morning, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood says there is no legal basis for the state to block a casino proposed on Choctaw tribal land in Jones County.

To read complete story click here.

—– (FROM TUESDAY, JULY 14) —-

Without getting into the political or moral issues of gambling, I understand why Gov. Haley Barbour and so many others don’t want the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to develop a proposed casino on tribal land in Jones County.

As most of you know by now, Gov. Haley Barbour and his “Gang of Six” Republican statewide elected officials have asked the Choctaws to withdraw plans for the casino, which would have 500 to 700 slot machines. It would be a $17-million investment, employing about 250 people.

The officials sent a letter to the Choctaws’ chief, Beasley Denson.

Those signing it with Barbour were Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, Auditor Stacey Pickering, Treasurer Tate Reeves and Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell.

At the heart of the legitimate argument is the proposed casino has nothing to do with the way Mississippi has historically defined casinos as a “destination place”.

The Coast, Tunica County, Neshoba County as well as other locations along the Mississippi River fit that description, which is to provide other amenities, “such as a golf course, water park, and restaurants needed to ensure the developments are consistent with state policies,” as was stated in the letter from Barbour and the Gang of Six.

It’s a fair argument.

The problem is there appears to be no legal leg to stand on, and that’s exactly what the state House Gaming Committee said.

Democratic Rep. Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto has articulated that, saying Mississippi has no authority over whether the Choctaws move forward with the casino.

Moak says courts have upheld a gaming compact that then-Gov. Kirk Fordice signed with the Choctaws in 1992.

So, while Barbour and the Gang of Six may have one good argument in their bag, they will have to appeal to the Choctaw leadership on a different level in order to prevent legal gambling from surfacing in Jones County.

A look at bamboo and labeling for fish products

January 20th, 2010 1 comment

Labeling for catfish and seafood products is a no-brainer.
The Mississippi Legislature this year is likely to debate a bill that would require Mississippi restaurants to notify customers of the country of origin of their seafood.
Steve Bosarge of Pascagoula, a commission member and shrimper, said the menu labeling requirement would help shrimpers expand the market for their catch.
It wasn’t so long ago that we were talking about country of origin labeling for catfish not produced in the United States.
We should require restaurants to either have a sign posted stating that the catfish or seafood served there is U.S. farm-raised catfish or, if the restaurant serves imported catfish, it must state on its menu which country the catfish was grown and processed in.
There have been growing concerns over the last couple of years about catfish imported from China, Vietnam and Cambodia. The poor water quality where catfish are grown prompts growers in those countires to use antibiotics in production, but some of those drugs are not approved for use in the United States.
Growers in the United States follow stricter standards than catfish producers in Asia, Whittington said, and U.S. consumers should know what they’re getting when they eat catfish at a restaurant. Grocery stores already are required to label catfish products with country of origin, and we believe that no less should be expected of Mississippi restaurants.
Mississippi catfish growers have taken a huge financial hit from the import of catfish products, according to statistics from U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Any bill for labeling protects not only consumers but producers by forcing restaurants to let customers know where they are getting their product.
The bamboo state?
It appears bamboo fields could start popping up all across Mississippi, beginning this spring.
Just a year or so ago, Ed Johnson at the Delta Economic Development Center was touting bamboo as a possible source of income in the Delta.
In a recent conversation with Johnson, he believes the first plants could be in the ground in 8 to 12 weeks.
There are literally thousands of products that can be made from bamboo and while the United States can’t compete with fart east countries on labor costs, Mississippi can win on fuel and shipping costs.
The main markets for bamboo are:
•  Hard goods – flooring, cabinetry, fencing
• Pulp and paper
• Textiles – clothing, bedding, towels
• Bio-mass – bamboo could make an excellent candidate for fuels due to it’s low moisture content, and low ash/chlorine contents.
• Carbon credit opportunities – moso bamboo is the largest carbon sequestering plant in the world
• Eco-tourism – where folks could tour groves of 75 feet tall grasses?
There is still a lot of work to do. However, what appeared to many to be a pipe dream just 15 months ago looks like it is going to become a reality.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.