Senate Republicans will introduce a resolution Wednesday that calls on the federal government to stop coercing states to adopt the Common Core educational standards.

The resolution is sponsored by South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, and is co-sponsored by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, Mississippi Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, and Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi. The resolution asks the federal government not to use economic or regulatory incentives to persuade states to adopt Common Core. Compliance with the controversial standards should be determined by state and local officials, according to Graham.

“States and local educational agencies should maintain the right and responsibility of determining educational curricula, programs of instruction, and assessments for elementary and secondary education,” the resolution states.

“The Federal Government should not incentivize the adoption of common education standards or the creation of a national assessment to align with such standards; and no application process for any Federal grant funds, or for waivers issued by the Secretary under the authority of section 9401 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7861), that occurs after the date of adoption of this resolution should award any additional points, or provide any preference, for the adoption of the Common Core State Standards or any other national common education standards.”

The Common Core education standards were first designed by the National Governors Association, but the Obama administration soon seized on them as a paramount federal policy goal. Through their Race to the Top initiative, President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have made federal grants available to those states that implement provisions of Common Core, the resolution notes.

“The federal government has essentially bribed states into adopting Common Core,” said Graham in a statement to The Daily Caller. “Our resolution affirms that education belongs in the hands of our parents, local officials and states.”

Common Core implementation is currently underway in most states, though backlash from parents, teachers and conservative activists has led several state legislatures to halt the process. In some states, including New York it appears that Common Core and its required standardized testing regimen will be delayed for years.

Other states are simply renaming their standards to something other than Common Core in order to avoid scrutin

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Sid Salter: Farm Bill’s passage a testament to Cochran experience, seniority BY thadforms

Mississippi’s agriculture and forestry industries are a $7.3 billion business, employing almost one-third of Mississippi workers on 30 million acres.

Those farmers and timber growers now have the certainty of a new federal farm bill for the next five years thanks, in great measure, to Mississippi U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. The fact that the farm bill balances the interests of Southern farmers with those of Midwestern farmers is a direct tribute to Cochran’s legislative skill, his personal tenacity and the esteem in which Cochran is held among his Senate colleagues.

Cochran had to win two major battles over the last two years to get the 2014 Farm Bill out of the morass of Capitol Hill gridlock and onto President Obama’s desk awaiting his signature.

First, Cochran had to stave off challengers for his seat as the ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee even to be in position to use his vast experience to protect Mississippi farmers, landowners and timber growers.

That seat won, Cochran’s next challenge was navigating a changing political landscape. Cochran has served on the Senate Agriculture committee since 1978 – literally the whole of his career in the Senate. He chaired the committee from 2003 to 2005. During that time, Cochran has fought at least three farm bill battles that sought to walk the tight rope between fiscal responsibility on federal nutrition policy and practical policies that gave the nation’s farmers a fighting chance to make a profit.

The internal Senate politics on cobbling together a new farm bill were difficult. The process involved a pitched battle to determine whether U.S. farm policy shifted finally away from direct cash payments of commodity crop subsidies and price supports to new forms of subsidized crop insurance.

The new farm bill repeals the direct payment system, but replaces those direct payments with two new commodity programs designed to protect farmers from price and earnings declines while beefing up crop insurance programs.

It was also a sectional fight among farmers. Members of Congress from the Midwest and members from the South have spent the last year fighting over whether this nation’s farm policy would favor crops grown primarily in the South over crops that are more prevalent in the Midwest.

Southern farmers who raise rice and peanuts were poised to see if the federal government gives them a smaller, less substantive farm safety net than that being afforded to farmers in the Midwest producing corn and soybeans. Catfish farmers were looking for protection from Asian competitors not subject to the same food safety inspections.

The new farm bill also strikes a reasonable compromise between the need to bring fiscal responsibility to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – the federal program that my generation knew as “food stamps” – and throwing the neediest of the more than 650,000 Mississippians who utilized a program in Mississippi under the proverbial bus.

Some 1-in-5 Mississippians have utilized the SNAP program in the past. The new bill will save taxpayers some $8 billion, but will strengthen support for food banks and other local private sector charities by $200 million.

The new farm bill Cochran helped guide to passage also provides $150 million in water, waste disposal and wastewater facility grants and loans that are vital to rural Mississippi communities.

Without Cochran, the farm bill would have looked a lot different not just for Mississippi farmers and timber growers, but for farmers all across the South.

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Today, people are a lot more focused on the big football game than on politics, and that’s understandable. I’m looking forward to watching America’s biggest sporting event on television tonight, too. But today’s game is also a real reminder of how important it is to keep our strongest, most experienced team competing to have the best opportunity for success — whether it’s a position on the football field or a position in political leadership.

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran has dedicated his life to serving Mississippi in an unselfish way that has earned him a well-deserved reputation as a true statesman, not a politician. He is not someone who seeks praise on himself. His approach is about getting things accomplished for Mississippi — without trying to get the headlines. That is truly a rare and admirable trait in today’s politically-charged world.

Cochran’s experience has earned him high-ranking committee spots that greatly benefit Mississippi. Without him in these leadership positions, it would take many, many years to rebuild Mississippi’s influence on important U.S. Senate committees like Agriculture and Appropriations. The last thing we need right now is for Mississippi to lose any power or foothold we have in keeping our voice strong in Washington to counter the Obama administration.

From health care, agriculture and research to high-tech manufacturing, education and energy, Cochran has been a champion for economic growth efforts in every community of Mississippi. As governor, I’ve worked closely with him on numerous economic development initiatives that are providing more opportunities for our state. He continues to be instrumental working with me on bringing more jobs to Mississippi so people can provide for their families.

Cochran has been described as a quiet persuader. While that is a good characterization of his demeanor, the results of his work are not quiet at all. After Hurricane Katrina, Cochran’s work to help Mississippi was nothing short of heroic. He worked side-by-side with other Mississippi leaders to spearhead the effort to provide over $87 billion in supplemental federal assistance to states affected by the storm.

As a veteran of the U.S. Navy, Cochran cares deeply about supporting our men and women in uniform, our veterans and their families. He has a strong record of helping to build and maintain our national defense and making sure Mississippi continues to play a key role in protecting our country’s national security.

As a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Cochran has worked to make sure all branches of our Armed Forces are the best trained and equipped in the world, including support for military bases and installations in Mississippi, as well as helping the Navy’s shipbuilding programs in our state.

The issue of Obamacare is on the minds of everyone right now because of its harmful effects on our economy. This is another issue where Cochran has always been on the right side. He has consistently opposed Obamacare by voting to repeal or defund it more than 100 times. He’s actively working to stop Obamacare and he’s even introduced legislation to repeal it. He has also worked to reduce the national debt, eliminate burdensome regulatory policies and to get federal spending under control.

I expect during this campaign, there will be negative attacks designed to mislead voters about Cochran’s record. Here’s what I know to be true: Cochran is a pioneer of the Mississippi Republican Party and our conservative principles. Anyone who tells you differently is just not telling you the truth.

Cochran has a 100 percent anti-abortion rating from National Right to Life — the country’s largest anti-abortion organization. The National Federation of Independent Business, America’s largest small business association, gives him a 100 percent rating for his work to support small-business issues. The National Rifle Association has given Cochran an “A” rating for his support of our 2nd Amendment gun rights.

Clearly, Cochran has a record consistent with the conservative values of Mississippians. Our state has greatly benefited from Cochran’s leadership. In today’s volatile political environment combined with the dysfunction of the Obama administration in Washington, we need Cochran’s experience now more than ever.

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How important is the Farm Bill to Mississippi? The answer is the same as for this question – how important are farms and forestry to Mississippi’s economy?

Well, 65 percent of Mississippi’s 30 million acres of land is forest land. Approximately 125,000 landowners participate in $1.17 billion in forestry production per year. Forestry is the focus of Title VIII of the Farm Bill.

Nearly 1,500 poultry farms generated $2.7 billion in broiler, egg and chicken production in 2013. Another 2,700 farms produced soybean crops valued at $993 million. Another 2,113 farms produced corn crops valued at $613 million. About 730 farms produced cotton crops valued at $331 million. Just over 17,550 cattle farms generated production valued at $289 million. And 125 catfish operations generated production valued at $178 million. Then there were hog, rice, wheat, peanut, dairy and sweet potato farms, too. Title I of the Farm Bill deals with farm commodities.

Mississippi ag exports hit $1.3 billion in 2012. Title III of the Farm Bill deals with trade.

Altogether, farms and forestry generated $7.3 billion in state economic impact in 2013, as estimated by the Mississippi State University Extension Service. That accounts for about 21 percent of the state’s total economy and 29 percent of total state employment.

So, without even considering Title V, the Farm Bill is pretty darn important to Mississippi.

Title V is the Nutrition title that includes the SNAP program (food stamps). In October USDA reported 671,463 Mississippians participated in SNAP. That’s about double the number who participated in 2004 and represents 22.5 percent of the state population. This increase shows the tremendous negative impact the Great Recession had, since SNAP only serves low-wage workers, the unemployed and low-income elderly and disabled persons. Total SNAP payments to Mississippians in 2012 totaled $972.5 million. Clearly, Title V of the Farm Bill is also important to Mississippi.

As you may be aware, passing the complex Farm Bill has proven difficult. House Republicans want to cut crop subsidies and SNAP payments. Sequestration cuts everything. Farmers from different regions are at odds about which crops get the best deal.

Resolving issues and getting a bill passed will take strong, persistent leadership. A resolution that preserves Mississippi’s important farm/forest economy and provides reasonable cuts to SNAP payments will take strong, persistent, pro-Mississippi leadership.

If there is a leader who provides both, it is highly respected Sen. Thad Cochran. A champion of Mississippi agriculture for over 40 years, Cochran is the ranking Republican member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and one of four leaders negotiating the Farm Bill.

Cochran wants a farm bill “that will reform and modernize programs, produce budget savings at the same time, and provide certainty about the government’s role to producers and consumers alike.”

Be glad we have Thad.

Bill Crawford (crawfolk@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian. Crawford also served for a time as a deputy director of the Mississippi Development Authority under appointment from former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour.

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Both Republican U.S. Senate candidates in Mississippi’s most closely watched election this year asked donors in Tupelo for campaign cash last week, part of an effort to raise millions of dollars in a race that may help define the GOP nationally.

Both U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, 76, seeking a seventh term, and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, 41, parked their campaign buses downtown about four days and about a block apart, each asking for financial support.

Cochran, a Pontotoc native known for a low-key approach his admirers call statesmanship, success bringing congressional earmarks to the nation’s poorest state and easily winning elections, likely faces his toughest challenge in nearly 30 years.

Challenger McDaniel, from Ellisville in south Mississippi, a polished Tea Party darling set on canceling the federal government’s credit card and sending the longtime incumbent into retirement, is trying to galvanize support from voters aggravated with entrenched elected Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C. He has won endorsements from prominent Tea Party-affiliated national “super-pacs,” independent political action committees that can spend unlimited amounts of political donations to support or oppose a candidate.

Both candidates seemed focused recently on raising cash leading to the June 3 primary election. Cochran’s campaign estimates raising about $800,000 in the last week of in-state fundraising. McDaniel’s campaign announced Wednesday raising more than $500,000 in the final two and a half months of 2013.

Neither candidate spoke with news media or held public events while in Tupelo.

“Unfortunately we are on a very tight schedule so I do not think he will have time for an interview this week,” Cochran’s communications director, Jordan Russell, emailed to the Daily Journal before Friday’s fundraiser.

Noel Fritsch, McDaniel’s Washington, D.C.-based communications director, said Monday the challenger’s fundraiser was not open to news media.

The $200-a-person event for Cochran at Park Heights restaurant included appearances by Republican U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, who introduced Cochran to the audience of about 75.

Former Tupelo mayor and TVA chairman Glenn McCullough, who attended Cochran’s fundraiser, said he heard messages of Mississippi Republican unity and believes Cochran deserves another six-year term.

“Sen. Cochran’s conservative values, his leadership and ability to represent the best interest of Mississippians have always appealed to me,” McCullough said. “Lord knows we need him now more than ever.”

As for McDaniel’s local support, 40 supporters attended his $65 a person fundraiser at the BancorpSouth Conference Center. Tupelo Tea Party leader Grant Sowell said McDaniel’s approach involves speaking to smaller groups, but a lot of them.

McDaniel has repeatedly criticized Cochran’s funneling of federal taxpayer money for state public universities, public safety and health, agricultural programs and dozens of other projects that some conservatives say the nation can’t afford.

“Sen. McDaniel made it clear that his race is bigger than one man,” Sowell said. “It’s about the people and the movement, not just him or Thad Cochran.”

The GOP U.S. Senate primary election winner will face whoever emerges from the Democratic primary. Currently, only former Republican congressional candidate turned Democrat Bill Marcy has filed qualifying papers but state Democratic Party chairman Rickey Cole said he expects others to qualify before the March 1 deadline.

The general election is Nov. 4.

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