Congressman Gregg Harper, left, with Rotary Club President Terry Jones.
Congressman Gregg Harper, left, with Rotary Club President Terry Jones.
As Congress is expected to move closer toward a Farm Bill this week, Rep. Gregg Harper said it was important for the counties in his district including Neshoba, which are rich in agriculture.

Mississippi's Third District has been the number one poultry and egg production congressional district in the United States, Harper told the Philadelphia Rotary Club on Monday.

"We are hopeful that will continue," he said. "When you look at growth, the explosion of the world population, at the needs that we have and when you look at food security issues, what state is better poised than Mississippi to help in that area?" he said.

Harper told Rotarians that House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas of Oklahoma is moving for a vote on the conference report. Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran has also been involved in negotiations, he said.

If a deal is not reached on the Farm Bill, Harper said dairy prices would double in January.

"If for no other reason, you can look at that and the crippling impact that would have," he said.

Harper told Rotarians not to expect a perfect bill.

"I don't know what will ultimately be contained as both sides try to work through this. Just know that it is an important issue that is going to be taking place."

Cuts to the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program are a major sticking point in talks about the Farm Bill.

Harper spoke briefly on the budget, drawing laughter from Rotarians when he repeated a conversation he had with a man who wanted an increase in his Social Security benefits.

"I had a gentlemen a couple of years ago who came up to me and said: 'Mr. Harper, you've got to do something about all this spending, it's out of control and you know I haven't gotten my Social Security cost of living increase in three years.' He didn't even take a breath. Every program up there is somebody's program."

He told Rotarians that the deficit spending had to stop.

"We are going to have the highest level of tax revenue we've ever had in our nation's history, yet we are still going to run an incredible deficit."

Harper said he read this week that the State Department spent $1 million for one piece of art for the new embassy in London.

"We can't do that," he said.

With the 50th anniversary approaching on the War on Poverty, Harper said $16 trillion had been spent on entitlement programs.

"Poverty seems to be winning the war," he said.

He said money should be spent more wisely to help people.

"It is easy to become dependent upon government. If you can get somebody a good job, it's going to go a long way toward helping."

In terms of economic development, Harper said Mississippi had much to be proud of.

"It would be nice if every economic development project ended up here, but if something happens in Winston County, Neshoba County or Leake County, it is good for our region. When we work together in a region it helps and we work a little smarter."