Newswire : Diverse rural farmer and community groups praise bipartisan Senate Agriculture Committee Farm Bill

Two national organizations representing thousands of rural farmers and communities today commended the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 released by the Senate Agriculture Committee on Friday. The Rural Coalition and National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) applaud the Committee, Chairman Pat Roberts, and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow for the bipartisan bill. While the bill stops short of fundamental changes to provide a fair price to all producers, it contains important provisions to address the dairy crisis; protects and expands equity for tribal, historically underserved, veteran, and beginning farmers and ranchers; and preserves the integrity of nutrition programs. The bill also makes two critical updates to farm credit programs to benefit family farmers.

At a moment when dairy farmers are receiving prices as low as 30 percent below the cost of production, the Senate farm bill takes an important first step towards improving those prices for by establishing a Class 1 Fluid Milk donation program. The program will provide $5 billion per year to reimburse dairy farmers who make donations to non-profit feeding programs.

Wisconsin dairy farmer and NFFC board president Jim Goodman noted, “The inclusion of a fluid milk donation program in the Senate farm bill will help two groups of people in need: dairy farmers who have been trying to survive on milk prices that are well below cost of production and people who cannot afford to put food on the table. Many people struggling with food insecurity are working, many are children – and some are farmers themselves. The dairy donation program will provide significant relief to all of these populations.”

Two credit provisions in the Senate bill will bring further relief to farmers facing today’s credit crisis. The provisions offer new favorable loan servicing options to help farm families preserve farmland and avoid foreclosure, as well as expanding eligibility for emergency loans following a catastrophe such as a drought or flood.

“NFFC and Rural Coalition have fought for equitable farm credit since our work on the 1987 Agricultural Credit Act, which slowed the 1980s farm crisis,” said Savonala Horne, Executive Director of the North Carolina Association of Black Farmers Land Loss Prevention Project, a board member of both organizations. “These critical but common sense changes to the law will keep more family farmers on the land through the challenges rural America is again facing today.”

The bill also strengthens equity for tribal farmers and food systems and invests in programs supporting the nation’s historically underserved, veteran and young farmers and ranchers. It is notable for measures to strengthen and fund programs to assist small farmers and grow local food and farm systems. Among these is the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (OASDVFR), which has struggled for funding since it was first authorized in 1990, and since military veteran farmers and ranchers were added in 2014. The Senate bill links OASDVFR with the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program and strengthens and provides permanent authority to both programs. Under the new bill, the programs would equally share permanent direct funding of $50 million.

“We have been working hard for decades to bring equity to the farm bill in terms of treatment for Black farmers and other farmers of color to build cooperatives and to uplift low-wealth communities. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 addresses continuing inequities and supports the quality hands-on assistance needed to make sure the 2018 farm bill reaches everyone,” said Rural Coalition Chairperson John Zippert, based in rural Alabama.

Rural Coalition and NFFC further commend Senators Roberts and Stabenow for a farm bill package that, unlike its counterpart in the House of Representatives, takes a strong bipartisan stance on ensuring food access for all communities, by retaining funding and authority for the crucial Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It also increases support for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives program and related initiative to strengthen local food systems.

For additional commentary and analysis on the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, visit www.nffc.net and https://www.ruralco.org/.

The Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural is an alliance of farmers, farmworkers, indigenous, migrant, and working people from the United States, Mexico, Canada, and beyond working together toward a new society that values unity, hope, people, and land.

NFFC unites and strengthens the voices and actions of its diverse grassroots member organizations in 30 states to demand viable livelihoods for family farmers, safe and healthy food for everyone, and economically and environmentally sound rural communities.

The Country Store in Union gets first Black owners

Photo above shows Milton Merritt in Roll Tide shirt, Jerrie Merritt in green shirt next to her parents Eloise and Howard Crawford. They are surrounded by family and friends.

Saturday, March 16, 2019, marked the grand opening by the new owners of The Country Store in Union, AL. Jerrie and Milton Merritt are currently the proud owners of The Country Store, formerly Parrish Grocery, located at the intersection of County Roads 191 and 208 in Union.
The Merritts are originally from Greene County, but now live in Los Vegas, NV. According to Jerrie Merritt, the Parrish family had been seeking a buyer for the grocery store for some time and finally got the interest of her and her husband, Milton Merritt.
The Merritts aren’t planning to re-locate to Union at this time to run the store, instead, Jerrie Merritt’s parents, Eloise and Howard Crawford, will operate The Country Store of Union.
The Country Store has had several owners/operators in the last 100 plus years. Various records, as well as community oral history, indicate that in the early 1900’s, the Miller’s family owned that store, which was one of three retail stores in Union at that time. Apparently Union was a bustling commerce center during that period with a flour mill, a cotton gin, a sawmill, a grist mill and a blacksmith shop.
Following the Miller’s, subsequent owners of The Grocery Store were Ernest Friday, Douglas Story, Duck Drummond and Mike Parrish.
The Merritts are the first African Americans to own and operate The Grocery Store.
Saturday’s grand opening of the store also included a birthday celebration for Mrs. Eloise Crawford, Jerrie Merritt’s mother.

Photo above shows Milton Merritt in Roll Tide shirt, Jerrie Merritt in green shirt next to her parents Eloise and Howard Crawford. They are surrounded by family and friends.Attorney Joshua Swords sworn in as Eutaw Municipal Judge Eutaw City Council and Mayor reach agreement to go forward with TAP-Streetscape Grant after prodding from citizens

Attorney Joshua Swords is sworn in as City of Eutaw Municipal Court Judge by Tuscaloosa Circuit Judge John H. England, Jr. at a special ceremony held in the William M. Branch Courthouse on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Standing with Attorney Swords are his wife Kim and son Joshua, Jr. The Swords also have a daughter, Caroline. Swords has been a practicing attorney since 2004 in Tuscaloosa and opened a second office in Eutaw in 2016.

By: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

At its March 12, 2019 meeting the Eutaw City Council and Mayor agreed to move forward with the TAP Streetscape Grant to beautify the sidewalks, street lights and some green-spaces around the Old Courthouse Square, in the center of the city.
This issue had deadlocked the Mayor and Council for the two regular meetings in February, which surfaced concerns between the Council and the Mayor on the finances of the city, limiting the hours of staff, availability of working equipment to maintain the streets and other points of disagreement.

The TAP grant involves $640,000 of funds from the Alabama Department of Transportation to redo the external sidewalks, provide new lighting and some green-spaces on the Courthouse Square, named for Sheriff Thomas Gilmore. The Eutaw City Hall, the Greene County Courthouse, the Industrial Development Authority and other county agencies have offices in the impacted area, which is the center of downtown Eutaw and the business and civic center of Greene County.
The grant requires a match of $220,000 from the city or others including $160,000 in direct matching funds and $60,000 for engineering costs. In the two February meetings, the Council postponed action on accepting the grant because of their lack of knowledge of the city finances and concern that funds were not available to match this grant.
In its February 19, 2019 meeting the Greene County Industrial Development Authority (GCIDA) agreed to provide at least a third of the $220,000 matching funds and help raise the remainder of the needed funds because of the critical benefits of the project, the GCIDA’s office location on the Square and the overall message of progress and receptivity for change that the project represents. The GCIDA has been meeting informally with officials from the City of Eutaw, the Greene County Commission and others to help find the needed matching funds.
The Eutaw Downtown Planning Committee a multi- generational, interracial group of Eutaw citizens that have been working to improve the downtown areas and the Courthouse Square presented a letter at the March 12 Eutaw City Council urging action on the TAP/Streetscape Grant. Danny Cooper who works with the Committee and also serves as Chair of the GCIDA read the letter aloud in the Council meeting.
Councilwoman Latasha Johnson asked the Mayor what had he done to meet the Council concerns that the city workers be brought back to working 40 hours, to secure proper equipment to maintain the streets and provide an audit and a budget of city finances. Johnson said, “City workers are picking up trash with pitchforks. We cannot maintain the streets after the grant without proper equipment.”
Mayor Steele indicated that he had agreed for city workers to come back to work for 40 hours as of March 15. The Mayor said he was seeking funding through USDA Rural Development for new police cars, a street excavator, trucks and other equipment. The USDA grant requires an audit of city funds for the past years, so the Mayor has secured a CPA in Tuscaloosa to provide the necessary audit. Using information from the audit, the Mayor said he could do a budget projecting the income and expenses of the city and satisfying the Council’s request for a budget. The budget would allow the City to determine which new expenses, including matching the TAP grant, that it could afford in the future.
Based on the Mayor’s assurances, Councilwoman Johnson moved “that the City proceed to do the engineering for the TAP project, based on the funds offered by the GCIDA, and continue to evaluate the viability of the project based on continued progress toward the concerns raised by the Council.” This motion was approved 3-1-1 with Johnson, Joe Lee Powell and the Mayor voting in favor; Sheila Smith voting against and LaJeffrey Carpenter abstaining; Bennie Abrams was absent.
The vote allows the Mayor to move forward with engineering needed for the Streetscape project while the Council holds him accountable for changes that he promised.
In other actions, the Council approved the following items over the past three meetings:
• Approved ‘Back to School’ Sales Tax Holiday for July 19-21, 2019.

• Approved proclamation designing April as Fair Housing Month.

• Approved expenditure of $9,000 for speed bumps on the newly improved Branch Heights roads, for safety of children and residents.

• Supports Memorandum of Understanding with the Community Services Programs of West Alabama, to distribute food and other services to Eutaw residents.

• Approved contract with RDS to collect sales taxes and business license fees.

• Approved ordinance to declare building adjacent to the National Guard Armory surplus, so that it can be used for other purposes.

• Approved letter to State Legislative Delegation in support of Sunday liquor sales in the City of Eutaw.

Newswire : Massive cyclone batters Zimbabwe and Mozambique, hundreds feared dead

Flooding in southern Africa


Mar. 18, 2019 (GIN) – A powerful cyclone moving at over 100 miles per hour unleashed deadly floods in southern Africa over the weekend, leaving a moonscape of mud where the bustling port city of Beira in Mozambique had been.

“The scale of devastation (in Beira) is enormous,” said Jamie LeSueur, leader of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) team there. “It seems that 90 per cent of the area is completely destroyed.”

On Sunday, the last road to the city of about 530,000 people was cut off when a large dam burst, the IFRC reported.

In Zimbabwe, the mountainous Chimanimani district was isolated by torrential rains and winds that swept away roads, homes and bridges and knocked out power and communication lines.

Zimbabwean rescuers struggled to reach people whose homes were flattened by rock falls and mudslides or washed away by the strong rains.

In Beira, where Cyclone Idai first made landfall, a 14 foot storm surge severed communication with other villages along the coast. Beira is Mozambique’s second largest port where vital shipping to the central part of the country, including Zimbabwe and Malawi, takes place.

Early Monday, rescuers launched dinghies onto chest-high waters, navigating through reeds and trees – where some people perched on branches to escape the water.

President Filipe Nyusi, speaking on Radio Mocambique, said he had flown over the affected region, where two rivers had overflowed. Villages had disappeared, he said, and bodies were floating in the water.

“Everything indicates that we can register more than one thousand deaths,” he said.

More than 1.5 million people have been affected across the three countries by Idai. Mozambique Red Cross volunteers are already on the ground as well as the IFRC’s international team,” said IFRC’s Euloge Ishimwe.

Ironically, Mozambique, like many other countries in southern Africa, suffered a major drought two years ago. Farmers lost their cattle and crops failed.

African populations are already suffering the increasing effects of climate change, said Kristalina Georgieva, acting president of the World Bank Group. “This is the case with Cyclone Idai, which has been sweeping through southern Africa since Mar. 16”.

It is not now known whether affected residents received warning of the impending storm. However images of the tropical cyclone were captured on a NASA satellite on Mar. 12 and on Mar. 19 by Mozambique’s National Institute of Meteorology.

Newswire :Southern Poverty Law Center fires co-founder Morris Dees

By Frederick H. Lowe, NorthStarNewsToday.com

Morris Dees

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – The Southern Poverty Law Center has announced that Morris Dees, the organization’s co-founder, has been fired, but officials of the Montgomery, Alabama-based organization did not
explain why.

“As a civil rights organization, the SPLC is committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world,” said Richard Cohen, SPLC’s president. “When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action.”
Dees’ biography has been removed from the organization’s website.

Dees, who is 82, co-founded SPLC in 1971 and was the chief litigator.

The organization tracks hate groups and regularly publishes “Intelligence Report.”
The issue, which was published in Spring of 2019 was titled “The Year in Hate: Rage Against Change: White Supremacy Flourishes amid Fears of Immigration and the Nation’s Shifting Demographics.”

The magazine published articles, photographs, and maps where most hate groups operate. The SPLC blew the whistle on the rise of white hate groups that were often ignored by law enforcement officials because some of their employees were members of the hate groups.

The groups listed were the Klu Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, Skinheads, white nationalists. Under his leadership, the SPLC bankrupted the nation’s largest Klan organization.

The SPLC also said Chicago-based Nation of Islam was involved in hate speech.
“The black nationalist movement is a reaction to centuries of institutionalized
white supremacy in America,” SPLC explained.

Dees could not be reached for comment, but a series of articles in Montgomery Advertiser newspaper reported Dees was more concerned with raising money than fighting hate. In 2017, SPLC had $450 million in assets according to federal tax records.
SPLC’s black employees also charged that Dees was a racist.

Newswire : Congresswoman Norton fighting for D.C., Black Press in new Congress

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedi

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is a living legend with more than 50 honorary degrees and a list of accomplishments the size of her beloved District of Columbia. One of the ways that Norton remains updated through her book club.
“I think the book that I enjoy is ‘On the Basis of Sex,’ about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg,” Norton said. “But, as far as having a favorite movie, television show or song, I don’t have time.” That’s because she’s busy fighting for the rights of her fellow Washingtonians.
It’s a battle she’s fought for nearly 30 years as the District’s representative in the House of Representatives.
“Certainly nothing can be more important than making the District a state and I don’t suppose that any member of Congress can do anything that’s more important,” said Norton, 81. “We are going to get a vote on statehood this time and I expect it to be successful in Congress. We’ll just have to see what happens in the Senate,”
Norton arrived in Congress in 1991. Already a national figure known for her work during the civil rights movement, Norton arrived with a determination that others could easily see.Her hard work helped to break barriers for Washington as she successfully fought for a bill that provided up to $10,000 annually for high school students in D.C. to attend any public U.S. college or university. That bill also provided up to $2,500 per year for D.C. students to attend many private colleges and universities.
She also gained a unique $5,000 D.C. homebuyer tax credit for residents and helped stabilize
the city’s population with various incentives during times of economic crisis. Most of that was
accomplished while Democrats sat in the minority.
Along with the many battles still ahead, Norton has also tackled the issue of federal agencies
and how they spend their combined more than $5 billion advertising budget. She said she’s gathered co-sponsors for a bill that will require all agencies in the government to produce their spending reports and detail what they have spent and will spend with black-owned newspapers and media companies.
“I introduced it the last session, but it’s a new session and [Democrats] are in the majority so there’s a difference,” Norton said, adding that she remains amazed at how black newspapers – particularly in a major city like Washington – have been able to thrive.“You just wouldn’t know what’s really going on if you didn’t have the Black Press of America,” Norton said.
“That’s why I asked for a Government Accountability Office report to detail what federal agencies spend with the Black Press. My legislation will make the government lead by example in advertising with the Black Press and make them more conscious of their obligations.“That’s why I push it the way I am pushing it now,” she said.
For Norton, it all syncs with a motto she adopted from the Declaration of Independence “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,” Norton said, quoting that famous document. What I love is the saying, ‘self-evident.’ Take a moment and think about that saying. I do,” she said.

Newswire: Rep. Bennie Thompson wins efforts to make Medgar Evers Home National Monument

Meager Evers

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

On June 12, 1963, voting rights activist Medgar Evers was shot dead outside his home in Jackson Mississippi. Evers, who was a World War II veteran, was the NAACP field secretary in Mississippi.

He was murdered by Byron de la Beckwith, a white supremacist, Klansman and member of the White Citizens’ Council. Evers’ killer would not be convicted until 1994, after an all-white jury deadlocked in 1964 allowing de la Beckwith to roam unpunished for Evers’ murder for three decades.
Because of the work of Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the Evers’ house at 2332 Margaret Walker Alexander Drive in Jackson, will now become a national historic landmark. The house where Medgar Evers’ was fatally shot was built in the first planned middle-class subdivision for African-Americans in Mississippi after World War II. Thompson has been working on the honor for Evers for over ten years.

The home was owned by Tougaloo College and later restored for tours. In 2017, Edgars’ home was designated a National Historic Landmark. The John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, signed March 12, 2019, included language that designates Evers’ home as a national monument.

On January 14, Rep. Thompson reintroduced the Medgar Evers Home National Monument Act. “In my capacity as Congressman of the Second Congressional District of Mississippi, to author this legislation to honor the sacrifice of Civil Rights Icon Medgar Evers and his widow, Myrlie, by designating their home as
a National Monument. This legislation is of great personal importance to me. I, like many others, was inspired by the magnitude of determination Mr. Evers showed by dedicating himself to others and fighting against adversity. The designation of his home is an everlasting tribute to his legacy.”

Evers worked to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi and end the segregation of public places. Ironically, the hospital that Evers was admitted to, after a delay, was the first time that an all-white hospital in Mississippi admitted an African American.

In October 2009, then Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a former Mississippi governor, announced that USNS Medgar Evers, a cargo ship, would be named in his honor. The ship was christened by his wife, Myrlie Evers-Williams on November 12, 2011.
Medgar Evers, who served in the U.S. Army, is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Newswire: Congresswoman Maxine Waters statement on the New Zealand terror attack

Congresswoman Maxine Waters

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, released the following statement today in response to the terrorist attacks on Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand:

“I am deeply disturbed and saddened by the horrific and hate-filled terrorist attacks that took place in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which killed 49 people and seriously injured 20 people. This merciless shooting targeted innocent Muslim worshipers during Friday prayers. My heart goes out to all of the victims, their families, and the Muslim community in New Zealand as they recover from this senseless act of violence.
“Vicious attacks on Muslims like the one in New Zealand are meant to incite fear, discourage tolerance, and threaten religious freedom around the world. It is my sincere belief that the international community must work together to confront xenophobic terrorism and all forms of hate whenever and wherever they occur.
“America stands in solidarity with the people of New Zealand, and we will continue to keep the Muslim community of New Zealand in our thoughts and prayers.”

Greene County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. celebrates 40th Anniversary

In a three day celebration that included a Grand Ball on Friday, March 8, Community Impact Day, Saturday, March 9 and A Sisterhood Luncheon, Sunday, March 10 at Embassy Suits in Tuscaloosa, the Greene County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority observed its 40th chapter anniversary. The chapter, organized in 1978 currently has an active membership of 32. Isaac N. Atkins serves as chapter president. Nancy Cole served as 40th Anniversary Committee chairperson. Photo above shows the majority of participants at the Sisterhood Luncheon on Sunday, with chapter members and guests. The Greene County DST Chapter sponsored a Community Impact Day, as part of its 40th year celebration, for local residents in appreciation of the support the chapter receives for its projects and programs. Impact Day, held at the Eutaw Activity Center, included service booths, games, food and fellowship. The Sisterhood Luncheon gave tribute to charter members of the chapter and the former chapter presidents. — Photo by Cythina Crawford


Greene County hospital board and staff ask commission for 3 mil tax for local health services

On Wednesday, March 6, 2019, five members of the board of the Greene County Health System (GCHS) led by Chairperson, John Zippert and Eddie Austin, Lucy Spann, Pennia Hines and Margarite Bir, as well as several GCHS senior staff, attended the Commission Work-session at which items are discussed before being placed on the Commission’s regular meeting agenda.
The GCHS delegation asked the Commission to approve a three (3) mil increase in the Greene County ad valorem property tax for the benefit of the Hospital, Nursing Home and Physicians Clinic. Zippert explained that this increase would yield $500,000 in new revenues to support the work of the hospital in covering its financial deficit for providing an average of $100,000 per month in ‘uncompensated care’ to Greene County residents who are too poor to afford health care or health insurance.
After approval of the tax increase by the County Commission, the measure would have to be advertised as local legislation for four weeks, then approved by the Legislature, signed by the Governor and placed on the ballot for a vote by the citizens of Greene County in the next General Election (November 2020).
The Commission listened carefully to the proposal and then said that they would not place the request for a tax increase on the main agenda until a more comprehensive proposal could be developed. Commissioner Allen Turner, speaking for the Commission said, “We will not put forth a tax increase for one agency, like the hospital. We want to present a tax increase for the hospital and other needs of recreation for youth, nutrition for senior citizens and general support for the work of the Commission. We feel a single issue tax request will not be approved by the voters of Greene County.”
GCHS Board members expressed some disappointment with the actions of the Commission but said they would monitor the situation and continue to push for needed tax revenues to keep the hospital open and operating without a deficit.

County Commission Meeting

In its monthly meeting held Monday, March 12, 2019, the County Commission approved hiring an employee for the County’s Probate Office. The individual was recommended by the county’s newly elected Probate Judge Rolanda Wedgeworth. The commission took action on the following:

  • Approved parking lot stripes at the courthouse, highway department, activity center and library.
  • Approved re-appointment of Debbie Duncan to Industrial Development Authority.
  • Approved travel to various conferences for the county engineer, assistant engineer, human resource coordinator and coroner.
  • Approved financial report, payment of claims and budget amendments.
    The commission declined to hire a bus drive for the Eutaw Nutrition Site.
    The meeting was adjourned following an executive session and public comments.

School board into superintendent search; begins interviews with AASB consultant

At its monthly meeting held Monday, March 11, 2019, the Greene County Board of Education continued its preparations in search of a new school superintendent. At its February meeting, the board engaged the Alabama Association of School Boards to assist in its superintendent search.
To move the process forward, the board approved the following: Contract between Board and AASB; Set Superintendent’s Minimum Salary; Qualifications for Superintendent; Board Members one on one meeting with Dr. Linda Ingram; Superintendent Search Timeline and Superintendent Search Survey.
Dr. Linda Ingram, representing the AASB, was present to begin individual interviews of each board member. Dr. Ingram will also conduct surveys and interviews in the local community. According to AASB, “The purpose of these interviews is to allow the consultant to gather information from the community on what it believes to be the strengths of the system, the challenges a new superintendent will face coming into that system and the qualifications and characteristics the community expects in a new superintendent.”
In other business the board approved the following personnel items:

  • Reassignment – Maintenance Staff: Jerome Jackson from Robert Brown Middle School to Eutaw Primary School; Jamar Jackson, from Greene County High School to Robert Brown Middle School; Samuel Newton, from Eutaw Primary School to Greene County Career Center.
    Supplemental contracts – Greene County High School – These contracts will conclude at the end of this school year: Karon Coleman, Head Football Coach; Corey Cockrell, Assistant Head Football Coach; Russell Rivers, Defense Coordinator; Justin Booth, Assistant Football Coach; Jocephus Patrick, Assistant Football Coach; Jacob Sullivan, Assistant Baseball Coach.
    Termination: Latoya Consentine, School Bus Driver, Department of Transportation.
    The board approved the following Administrative Services recommended by the superintendent.
  • First reading for Greene County School System Medication Policy; Automated External Defibrillator Policy and Health Policy.
  • School calendar for 2019-2020 school year.
  • Payment of all bills and payroll.