As a grassroots policy organization with members in all 82 counties of the state, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation strives to create opportunities for congressional members and their staff to visit farms and ranches to see firsthand many of the issues confronting agriculture.

During the August 2021 Congressional Recess, MFBF did this by partnering with Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry & Veterinary Medicine to host five Mississippi congressional staff members on MSU’s Starkville campus and at various farms in the Starkville area.

Congressional staff participating in the tours included Mallie Imbler and Chloe Cantor from the Office of U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, Jordan Coopwood from the Office of U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, Abbey Herfurth from the Office of U.S. Congressman Trent Kelly and Bubba White from the Office of U.S Congressman Michael Guest.

“These type of events are very important for Farm Bureau to have a hand in,” MFBF President Mike McCormick said. “Congressional staff do not get the type of exposure to agriculture they are experiencing during this tour when they are in Washington. They have to be able to see it and talk to experts to get a true understanding of why what they and their congressional member are supporting is important to a Mississippi farmer.

Staff members received important policy briefings from MSU personnel and participated in a series of farm visits. On campus farm tours included key research areas focused at the MSU School of Veterinarian Medicine; the R. R. Foil Plant Science Research Center, known by many as North Farm; and the Meat Science and Muscle Biology Laboratory.

“What we hope to do is showcase the good work our scientists are doing, but we also want to have a real dialogue with our congressional members and their staff,” said Keith Coble, Vice President for the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary. “I hope this group walks away with a greater understanding of the problems they may hear about and that they know they’ve got a resource at Mississippi State University.”

In addition, staff members toured the Bogue Chitto Cotton Gin in Macon, Jackson Cattle Farm in Crawford and Shuqualak Lumber in Shuqualak.

“It’s always important to be able to interact with congressional members because that’s who is going to be lobbying for us,” Jackson Cattle Farm owner Bart Jackson said. “We have our end of the job to do, but we need to educate them on what we’re doing so they can lobby for us.”

“It’s always enjoyable to teach people about what the timber industry does for Mississippi,” Shuqualak Lumber Co. Procurement Manager Robert Hunter said. “A lot of people don’t know what really goes on in a sawmill – how much work is involved and how many employees it takes to run one. I hope the tour today was a good way for this group of congressional staff members to learn how much we fuel the economy.”

These visits allowed MFBF members and other Mississippi agricultural groups to discuss issues with policy makers on their farms, building relationships that will last for years.

“This was a great opportunity for us to voice our concerns and the problems we’re having in agriculture right now and the problems we’re going to have in agriculture in the future,” said Joe Huerkamp, Mississippi cotton farmer and Bogue Chitto Gin board member. “We appreciate them coming and speaking to us. I hope they walk away knowing they have a direct route to their agriculture questions through Farm Bureau.”