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.”

Naron honored for leadership

Robert Naron was presented the Excellence in Leadership Award, which honors Farm Bureau members who have made significant contributions to the organization and the advancement of agriculture and rural life in Mississippi.

He started farming full-time in 1968, and says he is especially proud of the role he played in helping to increase rice acreage in his county.

“In 1974, rice production in the Delta was still restricted by government controls and was farmed on a limited acreage. A group of farmers, through Bolivar County’s Farm Bureau resolution process, got together and worked with U.S. Rep. David Bowen to try and do something about that. With his help, we voted at a county annual meeting to support opening rice allotments so anyone could grow the crop.”

The program was eventually opened and Bolivar County became the largest rice-producing county in the state.

Naron and his father were also on the forefront of using conservation farming methods.

“My father started a land forming program, as did other farmers in our county,” he says. “We never did have the large acreages that some farmers have today, but all through my 40 years of farming I worked at improving our farm through land forming.

“It enables farmers to control the water they use, to conserve water, and to limit erosion. When I was in college, I worked with the Soil Conservation Service, and got early lessons in the need for water control structures and conservation measures.”

In recognition of his conservation efforts, he was presented the Delta F.A.R.M. Environmental Stewardship Award in 2000.

Naron says when he started farming, “my father encouraged me to join Farm Bureau and become an active volunteer leader. Nona Watson, our Farm Bureau secretary, later encouraged me to enter the Young Farmer of the Year competition, which my wife and I won. I also participated in legislative trips to Washington for meetings with lawmakers, to share idea, and see how they were representing agriculture’s interests.”

He says Farm Bureau tries “to support total agriculture, whether it be livestock, poultry, timber, row crops, vegetables, or whatever, and I appreciate the organization’s efforts to take agriculture’s message to consumers through its Farm Families of Mississippi promotional campaign.

“We need to let people know where and how their food is grown, and how much it costs to produce it. Agriculture is a big business — and it’s an important business.”

In 2009, Naron was honored with lifetime honorary board member status by the Bolivar County Farm Bureau.