Mike, Mark, and their brother, Jeff, who is chief marketing officer for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, grew up in a farming environment.

“Our grandfather, Boyce Pannell, and our father, Jerrell, had a plumbing/electrical business that was their main livelihood,” Mike says, “but both always farmed on the side — mostly cotton in the 1960s and ‘70s. They never had more than 200 to 300 acres.

“We boys grew up helping out on the farm and in the business, so we had a good indoctrination into the farming life and things mechanical/electrical.”iPad,iphone,technology,apps

Mike graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1981 with a degree in pre-med physics, and had hoped to get a job working with TVA’s nuclear division.

“But TVA was in the process of mothballing plants,” he says, “so that career potential wasn’t very promising. Mark, who had gone to Ole Miss too, had already come back to the farm, so I joined him and we started renting land and expanding the operation.

“We also had cattle for many years — a cow/calf operation, running as many as 150 cows — but we got out of that in 1996. We had pastures scattered over two counties and it was just too demanding. We could get better returns on our time from crops.

“We last grew cotton in 1990. We got out mainly because of low yields and the unsuitability of our land — cotton just didn’t do well on our wet bottomland. Too, it’s a more expensive crop and it requires more attention than corn and beans, although it’s about got to the point that soybeans require as much attention through the season as cotton.”

Mike says he’s proud of the work the Mississippi Corn Promotion Board has done since it was established in 2007 as part of the legislation that created the state’s 1-cent per bushel corn checkoff program. He was elected chairman for a two-year term.

“We have an outstanding group of farmers on the board and an active, supportive membership,” he says. “Our budget has grown from $250,000 the first year to $1.2 million this year. Ninety-five percent of that stays in the state, most of it for research and promotion. The other 5 percent is for the state’s membership in the National Corn Growers Association to support its lobbying/legislative efforts.

“The Corn Promotion Board board is prohibited from doing any kind of lobbying, so anything in Washington needs to go through the grower associations.

“Through the National Corn Growers Association, we’re also supporting AMCOE (Aflatoxin Mitigation Center of Excellence), which includes Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Texas.

“Mississippi has contributed $100,000 toward the organization’s aflatoxin research programs, and about $85,000 of that has come back for projects at Mississippi State University.”

This is the first year of operation for the Corn Promotion Board’s website (mscorn.org), Mike says. “We’re really pleased to make this resource available to the state’s producers — it is growing into a valuable reference library for corn research and production information.

 Mike has also been been president of the Mississippi Corn Growers Association for the past five years. He is a member of the board of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s Foundation and Relief Fund; the North Mississippi Extension Advisory Committee; and chairman of the Union County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Union County Fair Association.

Mark is a director of the Union County Farm Bureau Federation and a member of the FSA County Committee.