OUR OPINION: Cochran works the process for Mississippi’s fair share

By NEMS Daily Journal

The Universities Research Center reported last week that tightening federal purse-strings could prove difficult for Mississippi because of the sheer volume of federal funds historically coming to our state – about 50 percent of the state budge and more than $31 billion flowing to the state in many other channels.
The difficulty was illustrated last week in Sen. Thad Cochran’s votes and comments about key legislation affecting our state, two bills he supported and another he said he could not vote for in its present form.
Cochran was one of five Agriculture Committee members who voted against eh 2012 Farm Bill, an omnibus package of funding levels and programs formulas for almost every commercial crop grown in the U.S.
Cochran, former Agriculture chairman, said the Farm Bill passed on a 16-5 committee vote was not adequately or fairly supportive of southern crops, especially cotton, rice and peanuts. Mississippi is a factor in production of all three, and so are other Southern states.
Note that Cochran was specific in his criticism, but he also praised inclusion of an appropriation through 2017, at $3 million per year, for a rural health care initiative in the Mississippi Delta.
The overall measure has a a five-year reauthorization of federal agriculture and nutrition programs regarding crop insurance, commodities, conservation, trade, research, forestry, energy, rural development, horticulture, nutrition and livestock. The 2012 Farm Bill would reduce spending by roughly $24 billion over the next 10 years, according to a preliminary review by the Congressional Budget Office, Cochran’s office reported.
The measure now goes to the full Senate, and Cochran said he hopes for a better outcome.
The Appropriations Committee, of which he is the ranking member, approved two appropriations bills for which Cochran voted: Energy and Water Development Appropriations, and the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Rural Agencies Appropriations Bill.
Mississippi is a major recipient of program appropriations in both bills, including flood control.
Cochran saved the Agriculture Research Service Extramural Research Programs, funding that supports research at Mississippi State, the University of Mississippi, Alcorn State and Southern Mississippi.
He also won approval of continuing the catfish inspection rule, which had been in doubt.
The Water and Energy bill also included funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission for $68 million. The Mississippi ARC office is in Tupelo.
The appropriations process is not concluded, but even without traditional earmarks, skillful seniority and knowledge matter.