Full of mystery, beauty and economic growth
By Angela Rogalski
Photos by Dawn Rosenberg Davis
From the home county of Bentonia bluesman, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes and his Blue Front Café, which is the oldest surviving juke joint in Mississippi, to American writer, Willie Morris, whose memoir “My Dog Skip,” a story about a boy and his dog growing up in Yazoo, was made into a major motion picture; Yazoo County is as interesting and diverse as the river it was named after.
The area is rich in history and in flat Delta farmland, with a backdrop of gently rolling hills thrown in to further its distinct uniqueness. In fact, a very interesting, albeit eerie, part of Yazoo’s history involves the “Fire of 1904,” where nearly every business and resident of the City were completely destroyed, and is said to have been initiated by the “Witch of Yazoo,” who vowed revenge on the town for perceived injustices done to her by local law enforcement of the time.
Whether you believe the local legends or not, there is one indisputable fact: Yazoo County is determined to be in the forefront of economic growth and development in the Mississippi Delta. Being the first Delta county you encounter when traveling North out of the state capital of Jackson helps put Yazoo in position for this.
Kristi Mills is the new Director of the Yazoo County Chamber of Commerce. Mills says that Yazoo is very proud of a couple of new businesses that have opened and of the new Willie Morris Parkway that promises to keep Yazoo County flourishing and growing in the near future.
“Signaturez Bar & Grill in downtown Yazoo City opened not too long ago and they’re famous for their chicken wings,” she adds. “So, we’re very happy about that. And of course, in the spring we saw our first Wal-Mart open up and that was a big deal for us. And then there is the new Willie Morris Parkway that is out by that Wal-Mart that we’re extremely excited about. In fact, we just recently erected a Willie Morris monument there. The plan hopefully is to see more economic growth in that area in the future.”
Mills adds that the downtown revitalization that has been an ongoing effort is still moving forward as well.
“Downtown is doing really well. The colorful downtown buildings are a daily draw for visitors and for Christmas we’re planning the fantastic display of lights that we normally have, and to coordinate the colors of the lights with the buildings. The revitalization of our downtown area is important and the project has been an ongoing effort by many in the community that is moving along quite well. So, we’re very proud of that.”
Tourism is also a very important aspect of the city and county’s growth, and Mills says that this past 4th of July, Yazoo City held their 3rd annual “Yaz Summer Blast,” a big multi-day event that draws many people.
“The weekend before the 4th of July, we had our “Yaz Summer Blast,” and it was great. We had fireworks and so many visitors from out of town just for the event. Main Street was blocked off and we had an entire weekend of music, food, fireworks and many street vendors. It was just amazing.”
Mills says the Chamber is also growing stronger by adding more members on a regular basis.
“Our Chamber hasn’t had a director for a while, but now that I’m here, my job is to try and get the Chamber back up to speed. I’ve been working hard on that. Since I’ve been in the position, I’ve brought in 60-plus members already, either first-time members or renewals; a combination of the two. And I’ve only been in the office since June 1, 2017. I’m also visiting each one of the businesses as I can on a weekly basis and talking with them, trying to get them involved with the Chamber. And so far, it’s been a really positive experience.”
The Willie Morris monument that was erected on the new Parkway was created by the city of Yazoo and Deltaview Custom Design Monuments in Yazoo City. Husband and wife owners, Britton and Mary Ann Hill, have been in the monument business since 2012, when they saw an opportunity to fill a need in the community and took it. Mary Ann Hill says the idea of the Willie Morris monument with “My Dog Skip” on it, which was erected at the Parkway came from the town’s mayor, Diane Delaware.
“Mayor Delaware wanted this statue out there and so we helped the city with the creation of the stone monument in honor of Willie Morris on the Parkway,” Hill says. “It has “My Dog Skip” on it, which is really a great symbol of remembrance for Mr. Morris. The monument was special ordered by the city, and we did all of the sandblasting on the statue. The city sent us what they wanted on it and we designed it. We were very honored that our city contacted us and asked us to help with this. It was a very special day for us.”
Deltaview Custom Design Monuments is the only monument company in Yazoo City. “We’re not the only one in the county, but we are the only one in the city,” Hill says. “My husband and I did some research; we went to North Carolina and took some classes in sandblasting, and basically started the business from scratch. We get blank monuments, they’re precut stones, but we do all of the sandblasting on them. As a small business, we saw a need for a monument location here in Yazoo City and we also believe we’re helping families in the community at their times of need. We feel like our business helps people, and we enjoy that feeling.
“Our town isn’t large, but in the last few years it has just turned completely around. A few years ago it looked like our downtown was going to die like many other ones in the Delta. Today when you go downtown Main St., you will see colorful buildings, people walking up and down the street, wonderful places to eat and many locally-owned shops.”
Dawn Davis is Communications Coordinator at the Yazoo County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Davis says everyone involved with the Willie Morris Parkway have really been working hard to prepare for expansion and growth.
“The people involved with the Parkway have really made a concerted effort to have development-ready lots out there, which is great to see. This is going to be great for Yazoo, everyone is very excited about the potential development there.”
Davis adds that while tourism in Yazoo County is always very important, new business growth of any kind can only help the overall economic landscape of Yazoo County.
“Any new businesses in Yazoo, whether they’re directly related to our tourism industry or not, can only benefit other areas of our community and bring in more people, which in turn will bring more economic growth into our County.”
Annual events including the Yazoo County Fair are always an important part of Yazoo’s economic picture. And Davis says everyone at the CVB is excited about this year’s Fair.
“The Yazoo County Fair is a huge event that draws people to Yazoo County from all over the place,” Davis says. “It is generally held within a week or so of the Mississippi State Fair, and offers one admission fee that covers all rides. There is free parking and just a great family-friendly atmosphere that really helps the event attract visitors. People know they can come to the Yazoo County Fair with their kids and not have to worry about them running around a bit. It’s a great event. This year the Yazoo County Fair is Friday, October 13 through Saturday, October 21.”
Antique Days is another event coming up in October, Davis adds, and is an event that draws quite a unique crowd.
“Antique Days is an event held at the Triangle Cultural Center on Main Street in Yazoo City,” Davis says. “The event is kind of a celebration of agricultural processes of yesteryear. It features live entertainment, handmade arts & crafts, activities for children, a kibbe cook-off, antique engine demonstrations, free buttermilk biscuits with fresh cane syrup or local honey, and more. It’s a wonderful event.”
Davis is happy to report that Yazoo County’s tourism economy is thriving. She says that tourism revenues have increased significantly each year since 2014, and they’re on the same track for this fiscal year.
“Yazoo is home to five Mississippi Blues Trail Markers; the oldest juke joint in Mississippi that is still in operation, the Blue Front Café in Bentonia; and what may now be the oldest blues festival in the United States—the Bentonia Blues Festival, started in 1972. Blues tourists come to Yazoo from literally all parts of the planet to experience an authenticity that is becoming harder to find now that Mississippi’s blues tourism has become such a big business.”
“Yazoo County is a particular draw for international visitors,” Davis continues. “The annual Bentonia Blues Festival takes place one week after the tremendous Chicago Blues Festival. International visitors will often plan their visits around a string of events like this. The same is also true during September and October when the Bridging the Blues series of events brings visitors to Mississippi including Yazoo County.”
Phil Williams is Chairman of the Bank of Yazoo. From a banking and financial perspective, Williams is seeing the ongoing growth and development of Yazoo County as a positive impact on the economy that he hopes continues.
“Obviously, the Willie Morris Parkway is definitely a positive development for Yazoo County. It opens up some potentially, very nice commercial opportunities for us. And with Wal-Mart opening, there are usually some businesses that generally just open up around a Wal-Mart, which will provide jobs. Local businesses don’t normally compete with Wal-Mart, they offer things that the giant retailer doesn’t usually carry. They find a niche that they can operate in, such as charge accounts. Wal-Mart doesn’t offer personal charge accounts.”
Williams says that the increased traffic that Wal-Mart brings in from other Delta counties, may also increase sales for local businesses. “These people may pop into their stores and spend some money.”
Williams also says the downtown area recently had a call center open that does collection work for the Department of Human Services collecting child support payments, which will bring in more jobs.
“The operation will probably have close to 80 jobs associated with it, so that’s nice to have downtown and helps support that area. Our downtown restaurants and merchants are all a part of that support, as well as our main location of the bank, which is downtown also. And we’re happy to report that in about a month or so, Bank of Yazoo will be tearing down and rebuilding one of our branches, so we’re excited about that rebirth and growth there.”
As far as tourism, Williams believes Yazoo County has a lot to offer the Blues enthusiast, with the many festivals and events that are held each year in the area.
“In fact, earlier this year, Yazoo citizens were excited to learn that Billy Corgan, lead singer and guitarist for Smashing Pumpkins, was here in town and did a YouTube video that’s out there. He went to the downtown area, and nobody even knew he was in town, the video just showed up on YouTube. He found us on a tour through the Mississippi Delta and stopped in for a visit. So, music is a big part of Yazoo, and becoming more so every day. We have more and more international visitors every year.”
Growth and successful expansion is something very important to Yazoo City’s mayor, Diane Delaware. She says that the realization of Wal-Mart into their community is one such important step.
“Over a span of many years, Yazoo City worked very diligently to get a Wal-Mart, so we’re very proud that it’s here. And we feel that it’s the beginning of a new era for us. And we built the Willie Morris Parkway expressly for the purpose of improving our economy, and we’ve done a zoning overlay to assure that the structures, the buildings, are forward-thinking and moving toward the future. We’re making every effort with businesses and with the Chamber; just reaching out to everyone and seeking to improve our city. And the Willie Morris Parkway is near and dear to our hearts because Willie Morris grew up in Yazoo City and was a great author. With efforts on our part, we hope that it will become a kind of growth engine for Yazoo.”
The monument at the Willie Morris Parkway seemed a natural evolution for the Parkway and adding “My Dog Skip” to it was something that the mayor and the aldermen thought would be exactly the right thing to do.
“Having a monument that would express the meaning of the Parkway to us was just a natural thing to do, because it was the first time we had built a roadway of this type. I was simply sitting one day and my mind thought of “My Dog Skip” and I asked myself why don’t we put him on the monument? So, the aldermen and myself thought it would be the perfect thing to do.”
The festivals are something else that the mayor believes strongly in, and sees important economic growth happening through them.
“The “Yaz Summer Blast” is in its third year and gets larger each and every year. We think it will become the cornerstone of our festivals, along with “Jerry Clower” and our “Antique Days.” We see these three festivals as part of our growth as well. They’re fun and citizens engage with one another, as well as people coming from out of town.”
Delaware says the area welcomes visitors from everywhere and hopes they will consider Yazoo as their destination choice for many things.
“Yazoo City’s downtown area is growing; it’s a beautiful place and a beautiful destination. We have the Main Street Hotel; our Yazoo Market, and I believe anyone who comes and visits with us will completely enjoy themselves. We want visitors to see that Yazoo City is reaching out to be a destination for anyone from anywhere. We offer ourselves as the place for people to come and enjoy themselves and see the Gateway to the Delta.”
In June 2016, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) began a project to extend the lifespan of the bridge on Highway 465 over Steele Bayou in Issaquena County. The bridge was originally built over the bayou in 1959 to connect the Eagle Lake community to U.S. Highway 61. Just north of Vicksburg, Highway 465 is essentially the only way in or out for residents, vacationers and commercial vehicles, making the function of any bridge along the route an integral part of the local connectivity. Today, the average daily traffic is anywhere from 800 to 1000 motorists. Since being built, the bridge has seen multiple changes in the local landscape that necessitated the work that MDOT is performing, and is essential for the function of this important agricultural connector.
Steele Bayou parallels the Mississippi River running through the Mississippi Delta and connects to the Yazoo River. Since the 1950s, the bayou has received improvements to stabilize the water levels for vegetation control and environmental preservation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). In 1969, the USACE built the four-gated Steele Bayou Flood Control Structure about 1500 feet north of the Highway 465 bridge.
Operated by the Vicksburg District of the USACE, the flood structure provides backwater flood protection from the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers. When water levels are high from rainfall, the gates are raised to allow water to flow out of the Delta. When the Mississippi River rises and causes the Yazoo River to back up into Steele Bayou, the gates of the flood structure are closed to keep water out of the Delta, protecting important farmland and communities from flooding.
Located at the edge of the Delta, the two structures, the bridge and the flood gates, have had a relationship that has ebbed and flowed like the changing water levels of Steele Bayou and the two rivers that outline the Mississippi Delta.
At the time the bridge was built, Steele Bayou was a free flowing river, and its foundation was designed and built based on the landscape at the time. When the flood control structure was built, it modified the velocity of the water going under the bridge. At times, water is discharged from the flood structure at a rate of 60,600 cubic feet per second and at other times the water is almost still.
The type of bridge over Steele Bayou typically has a lifespan of approximately 75 to 100 years with normal maintenance operations performed over the years as needed. As a result of the drastic changes in water velocity with the addition of the flood structure, MDOT and the USACE have collaborated to problem solve, maintain the bridges structure and extend its lifespan based on the new landscape.
In the late 1970s, the bridges steel pilings, the Steele Bayou channel and the banks began to experience scouring from the high velocity water that caused the bridge to lean. In 1977, MDOT closed the bridge because one of the steel pile foundations s was almost severed in two due to the sand blasting effect of the high-velocity, sand carrying flows. An emergency project was let to build a detour and another project was let to make repairs. One of the steel pile foundations was replaced with a drilled shaft pile bent. Stone columns were also added to provide lateral soil stability, and the bridge was reopened in 1978.
Similar issues and repairs occurred in the early 1980s, and in 1983, USACE and MDOT met to discuss the recurring hazards that threatened the bridge and identify actions the USACE could take to eliminate the problems. They identified the hazard as high velocity water and the USACE stabilized the channel by lining it with rip rap extending downstream of the bridge in 1985.
MDOT continued to see deterioration in the channel, and in 2002 MDOT worked with the U.S. Geological Survey to study the potential impacts to the bridge. Another project to replace a pile bent with drilled shafts was completed in 2004.
These repeated replacements of the pile bents had a better chance of withstanding the velocity of the water, but there was still channel and bank scour and erosion downstream of the bridge. This was especially noticeable during the extreme fluctuations in the Mississippi River water levels at the time, including the historic 2011 flood.
In 2012 and 2013 MDOTs bridge inspection team discovered the scour hole downstream of the bridge was deeper, larger and closer to the bridge. MDOT and the USACE met to discuss the scour hole and based on a USACE survey, the scour hole depth was below the elevation of the bridge foundation drilled shafts. The proximity of the hole and the instability of the subsurface soil threatened the safety and operation of the bridge.
Following that discovery and with the assistance of the Mississippi River Commission, the USACE funded and performed a project to fortify the area around and downstream of the bridge. They filled the scour hole with extremely large rip rap that wouldnt be affected by the high water velocity. Since that work, scouring has stopped and the foundation soil is now protected.
The two structures have been trying to coexist for almost 50 years. It took different generations of engineers and state and federal collaboration to work together to figure out the issues and find solutions to protect and serve the same people in different ways.
The current maintenance project on the bridge over Steele Bayou will allow the bridge to reach its maximum lifespan. These repairs will to give MDOT the time to plan a larger replacement down the road. A replacement bridge would need to be designed with foundations out of the water so that its no longer impacted by the changes in water velocity. The bridge would need to be longer and taller, and could cost approximately $25 million given the conditions of the area.
After the solution was discovered and investment put into maintaining these two structures, MDOT is working to be good stewards of the taxpayers dollar by getting as much life out of what is already owned before a new bridge is built. The current project is expected to be complete by the end of the summer and will give the bridge another 20-25 years of life.
Despite their almost 50 year relationship, these two structures continue to provide both the connectivity for the local agriculture and communities and protect them during the regular changes in water levels in the rivers and in the Mississippi Delta.
Earlier this year, when strong storms moved through Vicksburg and flooded a substation making it inaccessible from the ground, Entergy Mississippi used drones to look at its equipment and how it was affected by the rising water.
“Ordinarily, we would fly over the area in a helicopter to inspect the two-mile section of line because much of the area was off-road and there were several river crossings,” said Tison Reno, Entergy Services asset manager engineer. “But by using a drone, we were able to complete the inspection in an hour and determine that there was a tree on the line that caused the outage. The aerial photos allowed us to develop a plan to enter the area safely and remove the tree.”
Since then, the utility has used drones to assess storm damage throughout the state. It’s the latest application for the technology, which Entergy Mississippi pioneered in the corporation’s four-state service area late last year when it began using drones for inspection of distribution lines. It is also part of a continuing effort to improve reliability, is much more cost-effective than a helicopter and is one of the ways the company is investing in and modernizing the utility business.
“We’re looking at how fast a drone can inspect distribution lines versus a person on the ground or in a helicopter, and at how accurately drones can detect problems or issues affecting reliability,” said Reno.
“The biggest hurdle for drones is that we’re not allowed to fly them beyond our line of sight,” he added. “However, a new FAA rule granting waivers to fly beyond line-of-sight will hopefully allow us to further expand our use of drones.”
That won’t necessarily mean an end to flying power lines in a helicopter, but it likely will mean fewer such flights as drones can go just about anywhere and can provide a much closer view of equipment than the typical visual inspection can. That could mean fewer foot patrols as well, and fewer bucket trucks on the ground that can damage crops—a common problem in our agricultural state.
While drones have been around for several years, it has taken Entergy awhile to embrace the technology. Not because the company was late to the game; rather, because the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits using drones for commercial purposes without an exemption. It took Entergy contractor Aerial Patrol a year to get that exemption. The FAA drone regulations have since changed, and industry growth is beginning to accelerate.
Now that interest in drones is taking flight throughout Entergy’s service area, they will be increasingly used to inspect transmission and distribution lines, survey storm damage, collect data and for routine inspections, among other things. Drones are a prime example of how new technologies can improve service, lower costs and enhance safety.
By Linda Breazeale
MSU Extension Service
Early or not, Mississippi’s corn crop is well on the way to its best yield in years, barring any major disasters.
Erick Larson has spent more than two decades as the Mississippi State University Extension Service corn specialist. Larson said 2017 weather generally has been better than he can remember for any past growing season. Timely rains in some areas and cool nights during the crucial early grain-filling periods were important keys.
“Nighttime temperatures are the most critical environmental factor during the early reproductive stages,” Larson said. “In recent years, we have been 2 to 3.5 degrees above normal. But this year, we were about 1 degree below normal. That’s enough to make a favorable difference.”
Larson said he sees promise for strong yields in dryland corn as well as irrigated fields.
“Typically, dryland yields are 30-40 percent less than yields found in irrigated fields,” he said. “Some growers with irrigated fields have not even needed to turn on their wells this summer. Normal corn fields may receive five or six irrigation cycles before the growing season is finished, so those growers should save significantly on the crop’s cost of production.”
Larson said Mississippi’s corn benefitted from much better planting conditions than in the last four seasons. Growers planted most of the state’s corn from March 20 through mid-April, which is an ideal time. The crop germinated quickly and established uniform stands, which are critical for high corn productivity.
“We generally had drier than normal weather in March, April and May, allowing for effective nitrogen fertilizer applications, weed control and deep root system development in most of the state,” he said.
Dennis Reginelli, an area Extension agent based in Oktibbeha County, said corn in the heavy soils of east Mississippi has had more than enough rain.
“The challenge has been the excessive rains during the early growing season resulting in a shallow root system,” he said. “We have not had to worry about heat or drought stress, but once the fields start missing rains, they will suffer more quickly.”
When the corn crop reaches maturity, grain development is finished and the crop dies. Beyond that point, the weather is not a factor in crop development. Weather may affect harvest, but the hot, dry weather common in August is favorable for corn harvest. The forecast for upcoming yields has a significant impact on market prices.
Extension agricultural economist Brian Williams said corn prices have suffered from more acreage and strong supplies following the 2016 harvest. The recently released World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimate has caused some additional volatility on corn prices, with lower old crop feed use and higher new crop ending stocks.
“After a couple of strong weeks, corn and soybean prices are both down the middle week of July,” Williams said. “The report indicated supplies are larger and feed use is lower than anticipated. That directly impacted corn, and soybean prices followed lower.”
Last year, Greenville cash price for corn was $3.68 per bushel, and the futures price was $3.50 per bushel. This year, on July 13, the cash price was $3.69 per bushel, and futures were $3.76 per bushel.
“Lower feed use last year increased carryover, and this year, growers planted more corn acreage than expected, although acreage is still less than last year,” Williams said. “Prices in the next few months will largely depend on weather in the Corn Belt. Fewer acres than in 2016 should help, but we still have to overcome large stocks to see much upside.”
Mississippi corn growers averaged 166 bushels per acre in 2016. This year, they planted 560,000 acres, down from 750,000 acres last year. Nationally, corn growers planted almost 91 million acres, compared to 94 million acres in 2016.
Delta Council leader Curtis Berry of Tunica (third from right), who also serves in numerous capacities of leadership in the Mississippi and national rice industry, joined other USA Rice Federation principals this week in meeting with United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue (fifth from right) in Washington this week. Secretary Perdue will be the featured speaker for the 82nd Annual Meeting of Delta Council on Friday, June 9, at the Bologna Performing Arts Center in Cleveland on the campus of Delta State University.
By Christina Steube
University of Mississippi journalism students working in newspaper, television and radio won more than 50 awards in three separate regional contests this spring.
The Daily Mississippian, led by Editor-in-Chief Clara Turnage and advised by Patricia Thompson, assistant dean for student media in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, was named best daily newspaper in the Society of Professional Journalists Region 12, competing against college newspapers at the largest universities in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana.
NewsWatch Ole Miss, under the leadership of station manager Payton Green advised by journalism professor Nancy DuPont, won first place for best newscast.
“What a spectacular year for our student journalists,” Thompson said. “Our students have been honored so often in the past few weeks, it has been hard to keep track. Students work many hours each week to provide information for the campus and community, and they are getting great experience that has helped them land jobs and internships.”
The Daily Mississippian and NewsWatch will compete against winners in the other 11 regions for national titles. National winners will be announced later this month.
The Daily Mississippian won first place for public service in the “Best of the South” awards at the Southeast Journalism Conference for its “Red Zone” special section focused on sexual assault issues, published Oct. 27, 2016. The SEJC includes competitors from more than 40 universities in seven Southeastern states and was hosted on the Ole Miss campus this year.
The DM won numerous first-place awards at the Mississippi-Louisiana Associated Press contest as well, including general excellence, breaking/spot news and for its website. NewsWatch also won a first-place award in this contest for best sportscast.
Several students, including Turnage, took home individual awards. The senior from New Hebron was honored with eight awards in three contests, including first-place honors for feature writing, general news reporting and enterprise-investigative reporting. She won a newspaper “Best of Show” award from the Associated Press and finished second in SEJC’s prestigious College Journalist of the Year competition.
Turnage said she is thankful for her time at the DM.
“This has been an incredible year,” she said. “I’ve dreamed of being editor-in-chief since I came to Ole Miss and it was everything I wanted it to be.
“I think we got the opportunity to work on difficult, important subjects for the community, and that’s what we wanted to do. The awards the DM staff won are an important marker of the hard work we put into our publication. They’re not the reason we work hard, but I love seeing the editors and reporters get recognition for their efforts.”
Turnage has accepted a summer internship with the Chronicle of Higher Education in Washington, D.C. She is among only three interns hired, along with a student from UC-Berkeley and another from Columbia University.
Other students who won first-place awards in the Associated Press, SEJC and Society of Professional Journalists contests are:
Italiana Anderson, a senior from Ridgeland, for radio documentary in the AP competition
Cameron Brooks, sophomore from Houston, Texas, sports photos, AP
Ariel Cobbert, junior from Hattiesburg, breaking news photos, SPJ
Lana Ferguson, junior from Mechanicsville, Virginia, magazine writing, SEJC
Payton Green, December graduate from Pascagoula, TV breaking news, SPJ
Lauren Layton, junior from Huntsville, Alabama, TV breaking news, SPJ
Sara McAlister, sophomore from Potomac, Maryland, radio sports, AP
Zoe McDonald, senior from Brandon, feature writing, SEJC
Billy Rainey, senior from Jackson, radio news and radio Best of Show, AP
Brian Scott Rippee, senior from Jackson, sports enterprise/feature, AP
Jake Thrasher, junior from Birmingham, Alabama, personal column writing, AP
The UM journalism school’s advanced reporting and television documentary classes also were honored with a first-place award from the AP for Best Student Documentary. Led by journalism professors Brad Schultz and Kathleen Wickam, the classes produced a half-hour documentary titled “Mississippi Votes: Looking Back, Moving Forward,” focused on Mississippi’s role in the 2016 general election, specifically in regards to voter identification, immigration and young voters.
“Having now won this award three years in a row, it’s a reflection of the hard work our documentary and reporting students have put in,” Schultz said. “To start a documentary project in late August and have an award-winning product finished by early December shows the quality of our students.”
The documentary can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-jVde3h8oQ.
“Mississippi Miracle,” a depth report about the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, was named a finalist in the SPJ contest. The report was produced by student journalists in a class led by instructor Bill Rose, assistant professor Mikki Harris and instructor Emily Bowen-Moore.
Second- and third-place winners and finalists representing Ole Miss are:
Hayden Benge, a sophomore from Tulsa, Oklahoma, for page layout and design
Chandler Morgan, senior from Kennesaw, Georgia, TV news
Marisa Morrissette, junior from Oxford, graphic design
Riley Mueller, junior from College Station, Texas, radio sports
Daniella Oropeza, senior from Clinton, TV hard news
Megan Peoples, freshman from Columbus, radio sports
DeAndria Turner, freshman from Gautier, radio feature
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced the creation of an undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a recognition of the ever-increasing importance of international trade to American agriculture. Perdue made the announcement standing by barges filled with agricultural products along the banks of the Ohio River. As part of a reorganization of USDA, Perdue also announced the standing up of a newly-named Farm Production and Conservation mission area to have a customer focus and meet USDA constituents in the field. Finally, Perdue announced that the department’s Rural Development agencies would be elevated to report directly to the secretary of agriculture in recognition of the need to help promote rural prosperity.
Perdue issued a report to announce the changes, which address Congressional direction in the 2014 Farm Bill to create the new undersecretary for trade and also are a down payment on President Trump’s request of his cabinet to deliver plans to improve the accountability and customer service provided by departments.
“Food is a noble thing to trade. This nation has a great story to tell and we’ve got producers here that produce more than we can consume,” said Secretary Perdue. “And that’s good, because I’m a grow-it-and-sell-it kind of guy. Our people in American agriculture have shown they can grow it, and we’re here to sell it in markets all around the world.”
Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs
Agricultural trade is critical for the U.S. farm sector and the American economy as a whole. U.S. agricultural and food exports account for 20 percent of the value of production, and every dollar of these exports creates another $1.27 in business activity. Additionally, every $1 billion in U.S. agricultural exports supports approximately 8,000 American jobs across the entire American economy. As the global marketplace becomes even more competitive every day, the United States must position itself in the best way possible to retain its standing as a world leader.
“Our plan to establish an undersecretary for trade fits right in line with my goal to be American agriculture’s unapologetic advocate and chief salesman around the world. By working side by side with our U.S. Trade Representative and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, the USDA undersecretary for trade will ensure that American producers are well equipped to sell their products and feed the world,” Perdue said.
USDA’s reorganization seeks to place agencies in more logical order. Under the existing structure, the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), which deals with overseas markets, and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which handles domestic issues, were housed under one mission area, along with the Risk Management Agency (RMA). It makes much more sense to situate FAS under the new undersecretary for trade, where staff can sharpen their focus on foreign markets.
Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation
Additionally, a new undersecretary will be selected for a newly-named Farm Production and Conservation mission area, which is to focus on domestic agricultural issues. Locating FSA, RMA, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service under this domestically-oriented undersecretary will provide a simplified one-stop shop for USDA’s primary customers, the men and women farming, ranching, and foresting across America.
“The men and women of American agriculture are hardy people, many of whom were born into the calling of feeding America and the world,” Perdue said. “Their efforts are appreciated, and this adjustment to the USDA structure will help us help them in even better ways than before.”
Under the reorganization plan, the undersecretary for natural resources and environment will retain supervision of the U.S. Forest Service. A reduction in USDA workforce is not part of the reorganization plan.
New employees of Entergy Corporation’s transmission organization are gaining valuable knowledge and experience in maintaining substations at the new Arthur “Dub” Barfield Training Substation in Clinton, Mississippi.
“This is the only training facility of its kind in Entergy’s four-state utility service territory,” said Jim Schott, vice president of transmission for Entergy. “It’s designed to give employees an opportunity to learn and train in a safe environment because the training facility is not energized. The facility offers a critical first step to preparing new employees to effectively maintain essential infrastructure and reliably deliver electricity to customers.”
Refresher courses for existing employees will also be offered in the new training facility.
The facility is named for Entergy employee Arthur “Dub” Barfield, former Entergy director of transmission grids, who died in November 2015. Barfield spent nearly 35 years of his career at Entergy and was a champion of safe work and training practices.
Employees from across Entergy’s four-state utility service will learn to operate, maintain and test equipment at the “Dub Sub.” The facility:
- Was built with both legacy equipment and new standard equipment to allow students to train on many of the various types of equipment they will encounter in their daily work.
- Is fully operational, with the exception of no voltage.
- Allows students to gain troubleshooting experience.
- Provides a mechanic and relay lab for foundational skill development.
- Offers hands-on training for employees to earn switching certifications.
“This is a cutting-edge training facility that reflects Entergy’s commitment to excellence and adding value for our stakeholders, especially customers and employees,” said Haley Fisackerly, Entergy Mississippi’s president and CEO. “This investment by the company supports Entergy’s We Power Life vision by ensuring a skilled workforce to deliver safe, reliable electricity for customers today and well into the future.”
Entergy Corporation is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, including nearly 10,000 megawatts of nuclear power. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.9 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Entergy has annual revenues of approximately $10.8 billion and more than 13,000 employees.