The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation recognizes 17 commodities, and works to promote each while also advocating for the farmers and ranchers who grow them. The organization does this by spending time with state and federal lawmakers, educating them on the details of what farmers and ranchers need to continue providing food, fiber and shelter for the state and country.
One of the most successful methods MFBF uses to accomplish this mission is farm tours. That is why MFBF staff hosted a farm tour for the Mississippi House Agriculture Committee in November.
“Through farm tours, we hope our policy makers learn more about agriculture and the issues our farmers are experiencing. That way, when they go back to the Capitol, they understand a problem a little bit better and how it impacts Mississippi farmers,” MFBF President Mike McCormick said.
On this particular farm tour, MFBF treated the Mississippi House Agriculture Committee to an inside look at four different farming operations. Lawmakers heard straight from the farmers’ mouths and were able to ask questions. From poultry to dairy to cotton to beef, the day-long tour was important for both farmer and elected official.
“We raise anywhere from 24,600 to 28,000 chickens per house,” said R.P. Vanderford, a Scott County farmer who hosted the lawmakers on his poultry farm. “We keep the chickens 56 days, on average, so we usually raise four to five flocks a year.”
A majority of the representatives serving in the Mississippi House do not have an agriculture background, Mississippi House Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Pigott said.
“As a matter of fact, very few of the legislators on the agriculture committee have an agriculture background,” said Pigott, a Walthall County farmer. “I think it’s very important for the members of the agriculture committee to visit these farmers to see what they actually do. It helps them understand why we are trying to fix certain bills during the session.”
Mississippi House Agriculture Committee Vice-Chair Vince Mangold said these fall farm visits are a prime way for Farm Bureau and policy makers to build relationships.
“These visits help my fellow legislators understand the purpose of Farm Bureau, which helps build their trust of the organization,” said Mangold, a Lincoln County farmer. “That trust comes in handy when Farm Bureau is suggesting something during the session. Because of these tours, these legislators will know there is a reason behind those suggestions, and that Farm Bureau has the farmer’s interest at heart.”
Noxubee County farmer Phillip Good said these visits from legislators present an opportunity for him to share his story in a less stressful environment away from the Capitol.
“There were a lot of specific issues and details, like labor and rising input costs, our group of farmers were able to give them information on,” Good said. “I think the discussion and conversations were very good. I hope they have a little bit more knowledge of what we’re facing on the farm right now.”
On the second day of the tour, the group made a visit to Mississippi State University, where they learned how important the partnership is between education, research and Farm Bureau.
“The research that they’re doing on campus is invaluable,” McCormick said. “By visiting, they get hands on knowledge on how important agriculture research funding is to our farmers and state. We hope this helps them understand why we ask for a larger budget in this area each year.”
“It’s always good to hear what farmers have to say,” Rep. Robin Robinson said. “They are the ones with their boots on the ground. They know what’s going on and what they need. This trip allowed me to learn what their needs are and how I can help.”