Former Agriculture Secy. Mike Espy“When I walked into the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) in 1993 – it was too large. They had 124,000 employees. It had not been reformed or downsized since Abraham Lincoln created it in 1862 … I stepped in and I said… look we have too many employees in this building. And so we offered a modest incentive package as long as they took it within 30 days. And you know what happened? Within 30 days, 7,500 employees left the employment of the USDA. We reduced the payroll … and we did it without any lawsuits. And that’s thinking outside the box.” Fact check: The downsizing effort began under George H.W. Bush Administration Agriculture Secretary Ed Madigan and was the result of a government downsizing bill sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), UPI reported. In December 1994, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Espy’s leadership, announced plans to close 1,274 field offices across the country. The move was projected to save $3.6 billion over five years and eliminate 11,000 jobs. Espy said in a release at the time that the downsizing would also save farmers 2.5 million hours each year in reduced paperwork requirements. “Government just got smaller and services just got better,” Espy said in a statement reported by news wire service UPI in 1994. Espy resigned in late 1994 amid allegations of ethical misconduct. Indicted on charges of receiving improper gifts in 1997, Espy was acquitted of all criminal charges the next year. As a freshman (congressman) in 1987, I stepped up and wrote an infrastructure and job training bill, go look it up. It’s called the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Act. And Ronald Reagan signed that act that I wrote into codified law. This helped your roads and bridges and … the ribbons of that bill are still enforced today. Fact check: The Lower Mississippi Delta Development Act, sponsored by Espy in his first term, was signed into law by President Reagan in 1988 to significant national fanfare. The project, modeled on earlier national development efforts like the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Appalachian Regional Development Act, was intended to examine as a whole the problems of the seven-state region along the lower Mississippi River, long one of the most impoverished parts of the country. Focus areas included job creation, business development programs and infrastructure needs. Despite its bipartisan support — the bill was co-sponsored by 10 Republican representatives — the bill failed to find a consistent source of federal funds throughout the 1990s. In 2000, then-President Bill Clinton, signed a bill creating the Delta Regional Authority, a successor to the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Act, which Clinton had been a member of as governor of Arkansas. Since then, the authority has distributed $163 million to the region and created or retained 26,000 jobs, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “I’ve been speaking about tariffs on agriculture trade. Agriculture in Mississippi is a $7.6 billion industry that brings in about 1.1 of every three jobs in our state. Soybean farmers bring in about $1 billion a year in soybean production. I believe that our farmers are productive. Our farmers are very competitive. Our farmers want trade. They don’t want aid. But we’ve seen the horrible impact of retaliatory tariffs on our soybean farmers based on the imposition of a trade policy that our farmers did not create and they do not want. And our soybean prices — if you look at the tables they’re now at a 10 year low. Now that’s just food off the table for our Mississippi farmers and consumers.” Fact check: Espy’s numbers about the financial impact of agriculture in general, and soybeans specifically, are accurate based on information from the Mississippi Farm Bureau and other sources. Soybean prices, impacted by the Chinese tariffs imposed as retaliation to American tariffs, are also at a 10 year low, and many Mississippi farmers are bracing themselves for the economic effect. “We (Mississippi farmers) are the ones being hit the hardest. We need to resolve this issue,” North Mississippi soybean farmer Jerry Slocum told Mississippi Today last month.
U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith
“We got that Farm Bill out of committee. We got it out of the Senate floor in record time.”
Fact check: The Senate passed its version of the bill that would grant relief to farmers who are battling low prices for their crops and other problems. Additionally, the Senate version of the bill addresses trade retaliation that has already cut into farmers’ pocketbooks.
Leaders from both the Senate and the House will attempt to reconcile differences between their own bills later this summer. The most contentious difference is that the House version, which received no Democratic votes, would impose strict work requirements on people seeking food stamps. The Senate version, which needed Democratic votes to pass, includes no major changes to food stamps requirements.
Hyde-Smith: “I have been a conservative my entire life. If you want someone with a proven track record of supporting conservative legislation, defending those tax cuts and all of the things we just mentioned, I just want to be the candidate you support.”
Fact check: For her first three terms in public office as state senator, Hyde-Smith was a Democrat. As a Democratic legislator, she supported conservative issues, authoring a bill to ban most abortions after 12 weeks. After the abortion restriction bill passed and was signed by Gov. Haley Barbour, it was rejected by the federal courts.
She switched to the Republican Party in 2010, less than a year before her first statewide run for commissioner of agriculture.
Voting records indicate that Hyde-Smith voted in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary that featured frontrunners Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Supporters of arch-conservative Chris McDaniel, who’s running against Hyde-Smith in November, have raised this point for weeks.
Gov. Phil Bryant, who appointed Hyde-Smith to the Senate in April after Sen. Thad Cochran retired, has touted Hyde-Smith’s long-standing conservatism.