A Brief History of Farm Bureau in Mississippi
1917 – American farmers responded to the need of producing more farm commodities in the interest of national security associated with World War I.
1918 – The wartime demand for increased production ended. Surpluses became a real problem for the first time in the nation’s history. County agents organized car-lot shipments of livestock to markets in northern states.
1919 – The farm dilemma was nationwide. Organizational meetings of the American Farm Bureau were held, first in New York and then Chicago. Mississippi sent two delegates to Chicago, C.L. Neill and John Willis, who helped charter the AFBF on November 12.
1922 – Seeing an opportunity in united effort, Neill, Willis and others set about organizing county Farm Bureaus in Mississippi. This removed county agents from the field of cooperative purchasing and marketing, a position that had met some opposition from local merchants. County agents actively supported organizational work of county Farm Bureaus. A state federation, headed by C.L. Neill of Jones County, was chartered on October 20.
In the early years, Farm Bureau operated largely as a cooperative, making bulk purchases of seed and fertilizer for farmers and developing a cotton marketing association, which was doomed for failure after a few years. Neill believed the mistake made was failure to charge enough for the service to farmers, therefore not generating the needed financial reserve to survive adverse conditions brought on by the depression years.
1930s – Farm Bureau reorganized and divided in 1936. Farm Bureau assumed the legislative burden of the farm economy while Mississippi Federated Cooperative specialized in cooperative purchasing and marketing as a separate and independent organization. Charlie McNeill was selected to head the cooperative work. A period of growth and success began.
Ed O’Neal of Alabama was president of the American Farm Bureau and became a powerful, colorful influence on the national scene. He reputedly had an inside track during the Roosevelt administration. Agriculture, through a “farm block” held its own in the national economy.
1940s – Ransom Aldrich led the Mississippi Farm Bureau as president. He soon was a leader of valuable national stature. The federation expanded into new areas. During this period Farm Bureau supported the introduction of hospital insurance; passage of the Hill-Burton Hospital Act which brought a community hospital to nearly every section of the state; birth of the Mississippi Chemical Corporation nitrogen manufacturing plant at Yazoo City; and organization of the Southern Farm Bureau Life and Casualty Insurance companies.
1950s – Boswell Stevens was elected to the presidency of the MFBF upon the sudden death of Ransom Aldrich. The state organization was reorganized and dues were raised by the counties at rates from $5 to $10. Emphasis was put on strong, active county Farm Bureaus, and membership growth resulted. A fire insurance company was organized by Mississippi members to serve the state in 1952. County offices were developed in increasing numbers, providing Farm Bureau with increased strength, prestige and influence despite diminishing numbers of farmers. The Mississippi Farm Bureau became one of the state’s most influential organizations in public affairs.
In 1954, it built and occupied a four story modern office building at 429 Mississippi Street, adjacent to the state capitol. Nationally, Farm Bureau entered the role of the major organization serving as a watchdog to preserve individual freedom and initiative. Issue after issue was defeated by Farm Bureau at the grassroots which would have led agriculture down the road toward more socialism.
1960s – Charles Shuman, successor of Allan Kline at the helm of the national organization, led Farm Bureau in a vigorous battle against the liberal offerings of the U.S. Congress.
In 1965 the MFBF organized a tire and battery sales program, and in 1966 broiler growers organized a marketing service. Before the end of the decade, a marketing program for “spent hens” was begun.
On December 7, 1969, county Farm Bureau presidents and the federation’s Board of Directors traveled to Washington, D.C. to help celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the AFBF.
1970s – At the AFBF annual meeting in Houston in 1970, Charles Shuman was succeeded as president by Willian Kuhfuss of Illinois.
Hugh M. Arant became the sixth president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation in November, 1972. Mississippi’s membership growth gained in momentum, and on May 2, 1974, the MFBF recorded its 100,000th member. Growth Committee recommendations added new products through the SAFEMARK program, which in 1975 was third place in the nation in sales volume. Most county Farm Bureaus occupied their own office buildings and the county insurance forces were expanded to better serve the growing membership.
The mid-1970’s saw more attention given to farm marketing at both national and state levels. This period was also one of declining farm prices and continued increases of input costs. Cattlemen responded by reducing herds, and as rowcrop farmers faced a near depression situation, unrest among farmers saw the beginning of farmer protests and demonstrations throughout the nation.
Allen Grant of California, who became AFBF president in 1976, began to speak strongly for less government regulation, and less hindrances to the free market concept. He soon was well known nationally and internationally as a forthright, common sense advocate for modern agriculture.
1980s – Membership in the MFBF continued to rise and by the mid-80’s was approaching 150,000 farm families. Bob Delano of Virginia succeeded Allan Grant as president of the AFBF. Emphasis was begun on foreign trade promotion to enhance foreign markets hurt by the returning strength of the U.S. dollar and increased competition by farmers in developing and already developed foreign nations. In 1983, the MFBF moved into a new headquarters building on I-55 North, and county Farm Bureaus began a computerized link with the state office. In 1984, the first MFBF members began to participate in computer programming with the AFBF.
Drafting of the Food Security Act of 1985 (1985 Farm Bill) began in 1984 with nonfarm groups, especially environmental organizations, having a great deal of impact. Dean Kleckner of Iowa succeeded Bob Delano as president of the AFBF at the 67th annual convention held in Atlanta in 1986.
Don Waller, a cotton and tree farmer from Lafayette County, succeeded long-time president Hugh Arant as president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation in December, 1988, at the 67th annual convention. Mr. Waller began his term stressing greater communications with and service to the membership, along with promoting more value added opportunities for agricultural commodities.
1990s – As Farm Bureau continued to move into the last decade of the 20th century, its strength and influence became more and more evident in the legislative arena, among government officials and with leaders of the business community. Agricultural and tax issues, along with a variety of issues affecting rural life, were of primary focus in dealing with lawmakers, while the continued promotion of agriculture as a critical economic force was directed at government and business leaders.
Farm Bureau has become an active player with many groups as the economic future of Mississippi is planned and developed. While Farm Bureau was once viewed as an organization interested in only Farm issues, it’s now positioned as a leader in building a better Mississippi for all its citizens.
Farm Bureau was a highly visible force in legislative efforts during 1993. A “Boll Weevil Eradication” law, a “Lime” law and an “Agricultural Theft” bill were all enacted with Farm Bureau’s efforts leading the way.
1996 – At the 75th Annual Meeting of the Federation’s membership David Waide, a row crop and cattle producer from Clay County, was elected president of the organization. Delegates, members and other participants at the December 7-9 meeting helped celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Federation’s formation.
2000s – Membership reached 214,752 family members.
2005 – Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast on August 29, wreaking havoc on the coastline and agriculture. Farm Bureau set up a fund to bring relief to farmers who suffered losses. Over one million dollars was distributed to needy individuals to help them recover. Farm Bureau also set up diesel distribution points to help poultry and dairy farmers get fuel to run generators until power could be restored.
2010 – At the 89th Annual Meeting of the Mississippi Farm Bureau, Rankin County Dairy Farmer Randy Knight was elected as the ninth president of the organization.
2011 – Farm Bureau scored one of its most important victories when a referendum was spearheaded by Farm Bureau to reform the practice of taking land by eminent domain. This put in place the law that restricts eminent domain takings to “public use” and prohibits its use for “economic development.” The referendum was put on the November ballot and passed overwhelmingly.
2014 – At the 93rd Annual Meeting of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, Jefferson County farmer Mike McCormick was elected to be the 10th president of the organization. Membership was 192,217 family members.