Joe Street, associate director of the Mississippi State University Extension Service, is the state coordinator of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year awards.

Charlie Stokes, area agronomy agent with Mississippi Extension, nominated Spain for the award. Stokes works with growers in several counties and says he nominated Spain for the award because of the quality of his farming and his attention to detail. “Bill is a pleasure to work with,” says Stokes. “He and his entire family are very supportive of Extension and research work at Mississippi State University. They have supplied land for our test plots. We depend on them, and they depend on us. They are just good people.”

As the Mississippi state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo award, Spain will receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Fla., a $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative and the choice of either $1,000 in PhytoGen cottonseed, or a $500 donation to a designated charity on behalf of new sponsor, Dow Agrosciences.

He is now eligible for the $15,000 that will go to the overall winner. Other prizes for the overall winner include the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson North America, another $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative and the choice of either another $1,000 in PhytoGen cottonseed, or a second $500 donation to a designated charity on behalf of Dow Agrosciences.

Swisher International, through its Swisher Sweets cigar brand, and the Sunbelt Expo, is sponsoring the Southeastern Farmer of the Year awards for the 23rd consecutive year. Swisher has contributed some $884,000 in cash awards and other honors to Southeastern farmers since the award was initiated in 1990.

Previous state winners from Mississippi include: Hugh Arant Sr. of Ruleville, 1990; Bill Hawks of Hernando, 1991; Kenneth Hood of Gunnison, 1992; Tol Thomas of Cruger, 1993; Rick Parsons of Vance, 1994; Ed Hester of Benoit, 1995; Bill Harris of Benton, 1996; Robert Miller of Greenwood, 1997; Ted Kendall III of Bolton, 1998; Wayne Bush of Schlater, 1999; William Tackett of Schlater, 2000; Willard Jack of Belzoni, 2001; Hugh Arant Jr. of Ruleville, 2002; Rick Parsons of Vance, 2003; Sledge Taylor of Como, 2004; Laurance Carter of Rollins Fork, 2005; Brooks Aycock of Belzoni, 2006; Tom Robertson of Indianola, 2007; Gibb Steele III of Hollandale, 2008; Donald Gant of Merigold, 2009; Dan Batson of Perkinston, 2010; and Scott Cannada of Edwards, 2011.

Mississippi has had three overall winners with Kenneth Hood of Gunnison in 1993, Ed Hester of Benoit in 1995 and Willard Jack of Belzoni in 2001.

A panel of judges will visit the Spain farm, along with the farms of the other nine state finalists, during the week of Aug. 5-10. The judges for this year include Charles Snipes, a retired Mississippi Extension weed scientist who is president and research scientist with Stoneville R&D, Inc., from Greenville, Miss.; John McKissick, a longtime University of Georgia Extension ag economist from Athens, Ga.; and farmer Brian Kirksey of Amity, Ark., who was selected as the overall winner in 2008.