- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:


May 17

The Vicksburg Post on National Hurricane Preparedness Week:

Sunday began National Hurricane Preparedness Week.

Vicksburg resident and Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney reminded us in a press release that hurricane season begins in earnest of June 1.

Many times, the advent of hurricane season doesn’t mean much. However, we Mississippians know all too well that is not always the case.

Even though Vicksburg is an inland community in central Mississippi, we’ve experienced the devastation spin-off storms can have throughout our state. Hearing the word Katrina is enough to strike fear in the hearts of many Mississippians, particularly Warren Countians, who were faced with rebuilding after the hurricane spawned tornados and other storms here that left a path of destruction and residents without power for days.

Best practice is to be prepared.

“We cannot become complacent because we’ve not had a major storm in the past few years, the key to protecting lives and property is being prepared,” Chaney said.

Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac remind us, it is not just major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher) that we need to worry about, but all hurricanes have the ability to cause significant damage, Chaney said.




May 18

The Sun Herald on Mississippi’s public schools:

The state of Mississippi once again has failed its schools. And its schools, as a consequence, will fall further behind.

The spin from Jackson is that education actually fared well in the past legislative session because it received level funding when other agencies had budgets cut. That is nonsense.

The state once again did not fully fund education, according to the formula set forth in its Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

The Education Department figures the state will miss the MAEP mark by $172 million statewide in the next school year. Coast districts will be underfunded by $22.2 million.

When public school supporters got a constitutional amendment on the ballot last year that would have forced the Legislature’s to fully fund schools under the MAEP, the lawmakers countered with a counter-proposal designed not to fix the chronic underfunding of education in this state but to confuse the issue and scuttle the amendment.

And, they went around the state campaigning against Initiative 42, as the amendment effort was called. They also vowed to do better and perhaps come up with a better funding formula.

Instead, Republicans, in the supermajority after November’s election and unstoppable in both houses of the Legislature, continued their march toward privatizing the school system. Empower Mississippi, one of the key lobbyists in the charter school movement, liked what the Legislature did to education in the past session so much it is throwing a party to celebrate.

“That’s a much more expensive way of doing business,” Pascagoula Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich said of charter schools as he made the case for school funding to the Sun Herald’s Justin Vicory.

While lawmakers are fond of saying local schools should know best what their students need, they aren’t listening to what school superintendents are saying on the Coast.

Many school districts, some of the best school districts in the state, are taxing local taxpayers to the limit of the law. Others say they may be forced by aging infrastructure, the need for cutting edge technology for students, and the desire to pay teachers competitive salaries to ask for property tax increases.

And they all say they’re being shortchanged by the same lawmakers who warned them not to support Initiative 42 because it would mean money would be siphoned off from Coast districts by the poorer districts up north.

No wonder the Legislature tried to pass laws to freeze school superintendents’ salaries across the state and to muzzle school officials.

Lawmakers were successful, though, in passing the largest tax cut package on the state’s history.

Perhaps the tax cuts will lure more business to the state than a well-educated workforce would. We have our doubts.




May 18

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on Mississippi farmers and soil conditions:

Mississippi farmers stand among the thousands nationwide who fight a continuing battle to achieve optimum soil conditions.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service has established a new statewide soil initiative that focuses on building soil health and productivity.

Mississippi cropland, forestlands and pasturelands are eligible for this initiative and federal funds accompanying it: $150 for qualifying applicants who complete forms by June 16.

The programs help to reduce the carbon footprint, increase water infiltration and improve wildlife habitat, all helping farmers realize better crop yields.

“As the world population grows, so does the demand for food production,” said Kurt Readus, NRCS State Conservationist in Mississippi. “A growing number of farmers are using soil health management systems to improve the health and functions of their soil.”

More farmers are increasing their soil’s organic matter and improving microbial activity by practicing good soil health principles. The top resource concerns in Mississippi are sediment, nutrients, soil quality, water quality, water supply, soil erosion and soil compaction. Farmers are addressing these concerns by practicing diverse crop rotation, planting diverse species and reducing tillage.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has stated that $150 million in funding is available for an agricultural production program that helps producers voluntarily improve the health and productivity of private working lands.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to add an estimated 10 million acres to the rolls during fiscal 2016. NRCS accepts applications for throughout the year.

The program is adapted for every major agriculture regions (Mississippi is in the Southeast).

The applicant’s conservation performance will be used to determine eligibility, ranking and payments.

Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect over 400 million acres nationwide.

The program has provided more than $4 billion in assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest managers to enhance conservation on more than 70 million acres.



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