Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation members and staff have been hard at work building relationships with key legislative officials and advocating for farmers and ranchers in Mississippi. In the last quarter, members and staff have traveled to Washington D.C., as well as held meetings throughout the state.

Livestock Producer Trip

In July, MFBF staff and leaders from the beef, poultry and small ruminant committees traveled to Washington D.C. to address several on-going policy issues within the livestock sector. The group met with American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall and staff for an overview of livestock-related federal policy issues prior to meeting with other officials.

Animal Activists

MFBF leaders visited with Executive Director of the Animal Agriculture Alliance Kay Johnson regarding the Fair Oaks Farm incident and an update on other activists’ activities. Johnson highlighted the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s concerns of the Humane Society of the United States’ relationship with the Trump family and the organization’s new strategy targeting religious and spiritual affiliation of animal rights and care.

GIPSA

MFBF leaders met with USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Bruce Summers to discuss the department’s on-going efforts of finalizing the final proposed rule of GIPSA authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill.  Summers told the group the proposed rule was still within the department clearance process, and there will eventually be a 60-day comment period. Producers can expect the final rule to take effect in the spring of 2020.

Disease Traceability

While at USDA, the group with met Caleb Crosswhite, Counsel and Advisor to Under Secretary Ibach, concerning disease traceability and USDA’s efforts to establish a national disease traceability program. Crosswhite shared that the department was providing funding for voluntary pilot programs, but was still in the communication phase with stakeholders in the process.  In essence, USDA will not be implementing a national animal disease traceability protocol for some time. MFBF leaders stressed the challenge implementation of this program will be for Mississippi farmers and ranchers.

ELDs for Livestock Haulers

MFBF leaders met with Andrew Neely, Senate Commerce Committee staff, and Neal McMillen and Jacob Smith, staff from the personal office of U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, on the issue of electronic logging devices for livestock haulers. The leaders requested the Senate Commerce Committee support an amendment to the upcoming surface transportation bill including a 150-mile “back end” provision to allow the 11 hours of drive time on top of the 150-mile “front end” provision. This would provide livestock haulers with a 15-hour drive time limitation.

Check-Off Protection

The group met with Senate Agriculture Committee staff Chelsie Keys about protecting check-off money from activist group attacks. Keys encouraged MFBF to continue talking about the issue and to coordinate with other commodity groups to launch a concerted effort to combat the anti-animal agriculture groups.

WOTUS & CERCLA-EPCRA

MFBF leaders met with officials from the Environmental Protection Agency in regard to the new proposed clean water rule issued by the agency, as well as the CERCLA-EPCRA reporting requirements we are not exempt. EPA staff provided updates in the process on both proposed rules.

August Recess

Each year, Congress recesses for the month of August. Congressional members and staff spend this time visiting with constituents, hosting town hall meetings, touring new factories and projects, and discussing issues with various interest groups while in the district and state.

The month of August serves as a busy time for most farmers. Corn is being harvesting, hay is being cut and baled, and many poultry growers are busy shipping birds. It would be a challenge to get our farmers and ranchers to Washington D.C. to visit with policy makers on key issues in August. As a grassroots policy organization with members in every county in the state and all four Mississippi Congressional Districts, the month of August presents us with a prime opportunity for our members to be involved in the political process.

It’s truly a prime time for local grassroots advocacy for our farm organization. It gives us a chance to visit with our congressional members and staff on our farms and ranches to see firsthand many of the issues confronting agriculture. This August was no different. Throughout the month, MFBF members and staff hosted tours on farms and visited with members of Congress and their staffs on key issues.

MFBF hosted Josh Peaster, legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Hyde-Smith, at the beginning of the month. Peaster visited with several agricultural organizations and agencies, and toured a local farm and gin operation.

During the middle of the month, MFBF hosted U.S. Congressman Michael Guest and his staff on a three-day agricultural tour of the third congressional district. The tour consisted of stops in Rankin, Franklin, Adams, Wilkinson, Amite and Lincoln counties where Guest met with local farmers, ranchers and citizens.

Guests’ goals for the three-day tour consisted of acquiring knowledge about the agricultural members of his district and the issues they are facing in order to be well versed when returning to Washington DC.

“We wanted to kind of get an overall snapshot of where we are and what we can do to make the lives of our farmers better,” Guest said.

For the former district attorney, learning on the job has been a must, especially when it comes to agriculture.

In that same week, MFBF hosted Adam Grubbs, legislative assistant to U.S. Congressman Trent Kelly, at MFBF headquarters for policy briefings and a Mississippi agricultural organization roundtable.

At the end of the month, MFBF Central Mississippi Vice-President Ted Kendall IV met with U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson in Bolton to discuss several key policy issues firsthand at the farm level.

These visits allowed our members to discuss issues with our policy makers on their farms and build relationships that will last for years. The month of August may be a busy time for farming, but it’s also a very busy time for grassroots advocacy on the farm.

Taiwan Trade Mission

MFBF President Mike McCormick and MFBF policy staff traveled to Taiwan at the end of August to participate in an agricultural trade mission led by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson.

Doug Simmons and Dennis Reginelli, representing the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board, and leadership from the Enviva Corporation, representing various sectors of the Mississippi agricultural industry, joined McCormick on the trip.

“The goal of this trade mission was to develop and enhance agricultural trade opportunities between the United States and Taiwan,” McCormick said.

During the trade mission, meetings were held with the president of Taiwan, as well as with the ministers of economic affairs, foreign affairs and agriculture. The group was briefed by staff from the American Institute in Taiwan, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Meat & Export Federation, United States Soybean Export Council, U.S. Grains Council and Cotton Council International. In addition, a series of meetings were held with various private industry leaders from the soybean, beef, cotton, forestry and energy sectors.

“We had a very productive series of meetings with Taiwan officials and industry representatives,” McCormick said. “The U.S. has formed a strategic alliance with Taiwan and the trip was aimed to enhance that trade relationship. We appreciate the hard work of Governor Bryant and Commissioner Gipson to make this dialogue possible.”

As a follow up, Mississippi hosted a delegation of governmental officials and agricultural merchants from Taiwan in September to discuss the potential of further trade.