Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Cindy Hyde-Smith and fourth generation farmer Robert Naron have been honored by the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation for their service to agriculture.

Hyde-Smith, a family livestock farmer in Lincoln County and former state senator and chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, was presented the organization’s highest honor, its Distinguished Service Award.

Naron, a fourth generation Bolivar County farmer, was named recipient of the Excellence in Leadership Award for his service to Farm Bureau, agriculture, and community.

The awards were presented at the organization’s annual meeting.

Hyde-Smith says she sees her role as the state’s top agriculture official as one to assist farmers in marketing their crops at a reasonable profit, with sensible regulations that promote a safe product and insure sustainability.

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U.S. and Mississippi agriculture face many challenges in the years ahead in producing enough food for this country and others around the world, she says.

“I want to support programs that will enhance and benefit not only production agriculture, but Mississippi as a whole. Agriculture is our state’s No. 1 industry, and we have a lot of opportunities to capitalize on what we do so well. Our farmers have been blessed the past two years with superb crop seasons, record row crop yields, and strong prices. With their hard work and dedication, agriculture has been a strong force in the economy of communities throughout the state.”

A cautionary note was sounded by Hyde-Smith regarding radical groups wanting to impose controls on many aspects of livestock farming.

“I feel it’s time to establish the efforts necessary to take these groups to task and protect farmers’ interests,” she says.

Among goals she has set are continued improvements and strengthening of the state’s agriculture museum, improvements to the state coliseum, Trade Mart, and show barns, as well as enhancements to the state fair. “We look forward to the upcoming legislative session and garnering support for these projects,” she says.

“I had a goal of reaching the 700,000 attendance level for the state fair — a milestone that had never been reached — and with good weather and a lot of promotion for the 2013 fair, we had a total of 706,588.”

In accepting the award, Hyde-Smith noted “there is no stronger organization involved in agriculture and legislative affairs than Mississippi Farm Bureau. They are an outstanding resource for good legislation.”