“When it comes to being a service to agriculture, there are very few individuals who can say they have done more than our recipient of this year’s Distinguished Service Award,” said MFBF President David Waide in his presentation to Keenum.

“As a member of Sen. Thad Cochran’s staff, Mark has always been available to Mississippi agricultural leaders to discuss agriculture issues. He frequently attends meetings with farmers where he discusses the latest issues and listens to their concerns.”

As an advisor to Cochran, Keenum, who holds a doctorate degree in agricultural economics from Mississippi State University, aided in the passage of the 1990, 1996 and 2002 congressional farm bills and was honored in 1996 with the Farm Policy Commendation award.

He assumed his current role as chief of staff for Senator Cochran in January 1997. The position makes him responsible for coordinating and managing all administrative functions of Senator Cochran’s Washington, D.C., and Mississippi offices.

“He has been honored for his service to agriculture in numerous ways,” said Waide, “including being named the 1997 alumni fellow for MSU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“He has been an invaluable person for Mississippi agriculture and an extremely effective advocate for the farmers of Mississippi. I am proud indeed to call him my friend,” said Waide.

Keenum, who returned to Mississippi to receive the award in person, called it “by far the greatest honor I have ever received. It’s special for me because it comes from an organization as outstanding as the Mississippi Farm Bureau,” said Keenum.

The former professor and agricultural economist for the MSU Extension Service said 2003 marked the 20th year in his professional career that he has had a personal and close working relationship with the Mississippi Farm Bureau.

“I’ve relied heavily on this organization. And now in my years of service to Senator Cochran, I’ve really grown to rely on Mississippi Farm Bureau,” Keenum said to the several hundred Farm Bureau members on hand for the Dec. 8 presentation ceremony.

“Your sign says Farm Bureau is the voice of Mississippi agriculture, and I certainly couldn’t do my job to serve Senator Cochran without this outstanding organization.

“It’s in the honor of the individuals of Senator Cochran’s staff and Senator Cochran himself that I am here today accepting this award. I am humbled and pleased to accept this award,” he said.

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