The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation took a step back from pushing major pieces of legislation during the 2021 Mississippi Legislative Session to focus on building relationships with legislators and educating officials on the importance of agriculture in Mississippi. We continued pursuing this goal in May after the session wrapped up by facilitating a farm tour for the Mississippi Senate Agriculture Committee.
The Senate Agriculture Committee is comprised of senators from across Mississippi who decide what agriculture-related bills move on to the full senate for a vote. That is why it is so important for this particular group of senators to see Mississippi agriculture. We cannot expect them to make well-informed decisions about the number one industry in Mississippi if they have never seen it.
“It’s important to allow these senators to get a feel for what exactly they voted on during the session and how it is important for farmers,” MFBF President Mike McCormick says. “When they can see it, touch it and feel it, it means all the difference in making them feel comfortable with how they are voting or what they might be voting on next year.”
The bus tour allowed the senators and Farm Bureau staff to bond in a more relaxed manner, strengthening our relationships with them. The first stop of the tour landed us in Raymond at one of Ted Parker’s farms. Parker runs one of the largest cattle-stocker operations in the southeast.
“We appreciate everything the Senate Ag Committee does for us and the rest of the agriculture industry,” Parker says. “We have to educate these senators about agriculture and beef so they understand what we do, how we do it and what we need to continue doing it. That’s why I hosted them.”
Following the cattle farm visit, we traveled to Yazoo City to visit Simmons Catfish. Mississippi’s catfish industry provides more than half of all catfish produced in the United States, making a big imprint on the state’s economy and employment rate.
“I’m not familiar with the catfish industry, but I know it’s a huge economic driver for our state,” Senator Tyler McCaughn says. “It’s important for me to attend tours like this so I can see what’s going on in Mississippi and learn more about the needs of Mississippians.”
“I think these tours help people understand the plight of agriculture in Mississippi, and what it can be and what it is,” Simmons Catfish Operations Manager Andy Prosser says.
After visiting with Prosser and Simmons Catfish Farm Manager Dan Bradshaw, we made our way to Chico Williams’s Farm. Williams is a row crop farmer in the Delta. He walked the senators through the expenses farmers have to take on to keep their operations going.
“It’s nice to know your issues are understood or at least talked about,” Williams says.
“The better educated we are as agriculture committee members, the more we can do for Mississippi’s farmers and the people who depend on the agriculture industry for jobs,” Senator Angela Hill says. “What better way to gain that knowledge than to visit a farm and talk to the people who run it every day.”
From there, we visited the Port of Rosedale to see how farmers ship their commodities using water passages that connect to the Mississippi River. Then we visited Mississippi State University’s Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville where researchers explained all the work that goes into helping farmers and producers fight pests and diseases effecting how much they produce.
“It’s very important for the committee to attend functions like this so they can take what they learned back to the capitol and fight for the farmers,” Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Chuck Younger says.
Lee Thorne is the Public Policy Coordinator at the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.