The state’s largest farm organization, with almost 220,000 members, represents growers of every agricultural commodity and enterprise in the state, and few, if any, escaped the perils of the 2002 growing year unscathed.
“We want and need some disaster relief for our farmers. The quality of our crop has deteriorated as has the yield. Our growers have gotten less for this crop than they would have without the harvest delays,” says MFBF President David Waide.
Leadership of the MFBF, working with federal agencies and the state’s congressional leadership, hopes to have many of the state’s counties declared federal disaster areas, which would make growers eligible for disaster relief and payment programs.
Waide says to ensure growers get the disaster assistance needed to compensate for poor harvesting weather Farm Bureau proposes and supports a three-fold relief package. The package proposes the 30 percent minimum loss requirement normally used as a gauge in disaster relief be calculated on losses from yield and quality rather than just on yield alone.
They also want AMTA (Agricultural Market Transition Act) payments distributed at one time for the people who qualify. For growers with catastrophic insurance coverage, they want some waivers allowed for crops that are still in the field and cannot or should not be harvested due to losses in quality and yield.
“Let’s not force growers to harvest when there is nothing marketable left in the fields,” says Waide. “Farm Bureau also supports use of counter cyclical payment analysis to project market movement and the use of that projection as a basis for payment sent to growers as soon as possible.”
Waide, a farmer from West Point, Miss., says disaster relief is a must before many growers can move ahead with plans for the 2003 crop year. Waide also called on American consumers to show their confidence in the American farmer’s ability to produce a safe and abundant food supply.
“Consumers need to interact on behalf of farmers and openly express their confidence in our products,’ he says.
Beyond lobbying for disaster relief at the federal level, MFBF voting delegates from throughout the state discussed and passed resolutions for numerous ag-related issues that will be heard in the Mississippi Legislature in the upcoming 2003 session.
Mike Pepper, director of governmental affairs for MFBF, says in light of the state’s budget crisis, protecting farmers from increases in taxes is a major concern.
“Taxes and their relation to the budget crisis will be a major issue for us this session,” says Pepper. “We must protect our growers from increasing taxes on inputs, land, equipment, and we have to be sure our exemptions stay in place.”
Another legislative issue being supported by MFBF is a push for alternative energy industries in the state.
“We have policies in place today that allow us to be out front in the development of alternative industries such as ethanol, biodiesel and the generation of anything with an agricultural base that can be used as an alternative energy source,” says Pepper.
“We are also continuing to lobby hard for tort reform. What’s been passed thus far is just a building block on what we’ve got to have.”
A sampling of additional recommendations put forth by voting members from each of the state’s 82 counties include:
- Legislation to allow the choice of arbitration or civil suit regardless of any clause in an agricultural production contract that attempts to mandate arbitration only.
- All harvesting machinery must be inspected at the truck weigh stations to prevent the pink bollworm and other insects and plant diseases from being brought into the state.
- Support of programs and legislation to promote and accelerate acceptance and adoption of alternative energies and fuels.
- Requests the Office of Land and Water Resources to develop a comprehensive state water policy to ensure a continuous supply of clean water.
- The Seed Improvement Association should maintain zero tolerance of red rice in Mississippi certified, registered and foundation rice seed.
- The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC) should declare sickle pod and Pennsylvania smartweed as noxious weeds and allow zero tolerance in certified seed.
- MDAC should improve a moisture meter testing program for the state’s grain elevators. Producers should be given a premium for soybeans with moisture over 13% if discounts are to be charged against soybeans containing over 13% moisture.
- Recommends the Legislature increase funding for statewide farm-raised catfish research through the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center.
- Supports legislation to regulate and restrict the spread and introduction of invasive plants such as Cogongrass, Chinese tallow, privet and kudzu.
- Encourages the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University to intensify research efforts to verify the efficacy and economic usefulness of new products and technologies being made available to growers and to use new communication tools such as the Internet and email to rapidly publish and distribute research reports.
- Requests the Agricultural Statistics Service to conduct an annual inventory of horses, mules and other equine, and provide an annual economic impact of the equine industry to the state.
Eva Ann Doris is a freelance journalist from Pontotoc, Miss.e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org