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USDA Officials Tour of Mississippi’s Flood Damaged Areas

The state of Mississippi, recently hit with back-to-back disasters in the forms of record-intensity tornadoes in the eastern portion of the state and devastating floods in the Mississippi River Delta, was visited by two USDA under secretaries on Thursday.

USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager and USDA Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse spent much of Thursday in Mississippi as part of an intense whirlwind tour of flood-damaged areas of Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana and tornado damaged areas of Alabama. This tour follows visits last week by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to the tornado affected areas of Mississippi and Alabama.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour greets USDA Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager and Mississippi State Director Trina George at the start of a briefing on the state of the flood damage in Mississippi.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour greets USDA Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager and Mississippi State Director Trina George at the start of a briefing on the state of the flood damage in Mississippi.

Shortly after their arrival in the state, Secretaries Tonsager and Scuse were joined by Mississippi’s USDA Mississippi Rural Development State Director Trina George and the three were escorted to a briefing on the flood situation held in the offices of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. Federal Emergency Management Officials (FEMA) and state agency officials, as well as representatives from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Farm Service Agency, and the office of Congressman Gregg Harper were also in attendance, along with Mississippi’s First lady Marsha Barbour. The group was briefed as to the extent of the current damage as well as what to expect as the flood continues.

Also while in Mississippi, Tonsager and Scuse traveled with Congressman Bennie Thompson and State Director George on a helicopter tour of the damaged areas. The tour began at Hawkins Field in Jackson and ended at Tunica Airport.

At the end of the tour, the USDA officials and Congressman Thompson met with a group of farmers and other affected persons at the Tunica Airport.  This “listening session” was an important part of the day’s events and served to give the USDA officials some first-hand reports of the suffering of the actual victims and what their losses will mean to not only the individuals who lost, but also to the nation’s economy as a whole.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Mississippi Rural Development State Director Trina N. George addresses the gathered farmers during an outreach event at Tunica Airport in Mississippi on Thursday, May 19, 2011. Hosting the event was Congressman Bennie Thompson (left); also there to support the farmers were Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager (second from right); Acting Under Secretary Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service Michael Scuse (right); and other government officials that were available to answer questions and assist people in getting help is available to them. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Mississippi Rural Development State Director Trina N. George addresses the gathered farmers during an outreach event at Tunica Airport in Mississippi on Thursday, May 19, 2011. Hosting the event was Congressman Bennie Thompson (left); also there to support the farmers were Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager (second from right); Acting Under Secretary Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service Michael Scuse (right); and other government officials that were available to answer questions and assist people in getting help is available to them. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

“Under Secretaries Tonsager and Scuse are senior administrators over programs for farmers and rural citizens, which are two of the groups most affected by the flood,” noted George. “It is likely that much of USDA’s flood relief efforts will come through these two people. It was important for us that they saw the extent of the flood damage, and we appreciated their willingness to spend their time here. Once the tears are dry, the time will come to craft the long-term federal response to help these victims recover and to help their towns and cities return and revive.  I know the experiences of Secretaries Tonsager and Scuse in Mississippi this week will help shape that response in a positive way for those affected by this disaster.”

To view an Aerial Observation of Mississippi’s River Floods by Congressman Bennie Thompson, USDA Under Secretary Rural Development Dallas Tonsager, Acting Under Secretary Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service Michael Scuse, and State Director Rural Development Trina George on  Thursday, May 19, 2010, click here.

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