Randy Knight, Pelahatchie, Miss. dairy farmer, was re-elected to a second term as president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation at the organization’s annual meeting at Jackson.

Donald Gant, Merigold, was re-elected as vice president for north Mississippi; Ted Kendall, Bolton, was re-elected vice president for central Mississippi; and Reggie Magee, Mt. Olive, was re-elected as vice president for south Mississippi.

Directors newly elected or re-elected to the MFBF board include Lowell Hinton, Corinth; Chris Lively, Clarksdale; Kelcey Shields, Mantachie; Kenny King, Ackerman; Jimmy Whitaker, Satartia; Oliver Limerick, Shuqualak; Vander Walley, Waynesboro; David Barton, Raymond; Mike McCormick, Union Church; Larry Jefcoat, Soso; and Louis Breaux, IV, Kiln. Jon Koehler Bibb,Tunica, will also sit on the board as a result of his election as Young Farmer & Rancher Committee chairman.

Nearly 650 members, representing the state’s 82 county Farm Bureaus, took part in the meeting where delegates adopted policy to guide the organization’s efforts during 2013.

Policies relating to national issues will be forwarded to the American Farm Bureau Federation for consideration at its annual meeting at Nashville, Tenn., in mid-January.
The delegate body identified several priority issues for the upcoming year, including protecting animal husbandry practices based on sound science, protecting landowners from trespasser lawsuits, and supporting adequatefunding for animal health issues.

Distinguished Service Award

Farm Bureau’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Award, was presented to Louis Breaux, Kiln, Miss. He has worked closely with Farm Bureau for more than half a century in various county and state positions and is currently an honorary vice president on the organization’s board of directors.

“This award is reserved for someone who has truly made a difference in the lives of Mississippi farmers,” said Randy Knight.

When Breaux moved to Mississippi in 1956, Hancock County didn’t have an active Farm Bureau.  He was asked by the county Extension agent a if he would like to serve on a board that was trying to get a Farm Bureau program started, and he said he would. 

“Thus, he became part of the process of growing a county Farm Bureau during a time when the organization was essentially in its infancy, especially in the coastal area of the state,” Knight says. “Under his leadership, Hancock County Farm Bureau soon hit its stride — meeting and often exceeding its quota each year – and plans went on the drawing board for a county office building. During that time, he served as county vice president, and then was president for 17 years. 

Breaux recalls, “We had finally found an acre of land to purchase to build our office when Hurricane Camille hit.”

The response and efficiency of Farm Bureau claims adjusters in the wake of the storm so impressed the locals that membership doubled in the year following the storm, as did the size of the proposed building.        

Breaux began serving on the MFBF board of directors in 1971, and has served continuously ever since.  He was vice president of the southern region for many years and is now a lifetime honorary vice president. He started and headed the very popular Farm Bureau Gumbo Festival in Washington, D.C., for many years, attracting lawmakers and other Washington dignitaries.    

Breaux and his wife Jeannette, who celebrated their 65th anniversary this year, have had cattle, timber, and a dairy on their farm and founded a municipal biosolvent business that is still in operation. 

Among his many honors, he received the Merchant Marine Veterans highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal. Following Hurricane Katrina, he organized food drops for families who had lost everything. 

“Farm Bureau is a family organization with good conservative values,” Breaux says, “and it has done a lot for the farmers of Mississippi. I am so glad I had the opportunity to work with volunteer leaders and staff to build such an impressive organization. I hope to continue serving the organization in any way I can for as long as I am able.”

Ag Ambassador Award

Paul Ott, veteran Mississippi entertainer and wildlife conservation was honored with the organization’s Ag Ambassador Award.

The award recognizes individuals who have gone beyond their normal range of activities in promoting Mississippi agriculture.

“It isn’t given every year — only when Farm Bureau feels it has been earned,” Knight says.

The 78-year-old singer, songwriter and storyteller “has spent his life traveling the state, nation, and world promoting wildlife conservation and giving others a glimpse of the lifestyle and values that have sustained farmers and rural Southerners for centuries,” he says.

His popular radio/television show, “Listen to the Eagle,” will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2013 and, Knight says, “is a testament to his enduring popularity.” The show is named for a song he penned in 1976 in honor of America’s bicentennial and focuses on wildlife and conservation issues, agriculture, and other themes.

Ott got his start in entertainment with the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission (now Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks) in the 1970s as their public relations manager.  He began promoting their educational programs with songs he wrote and sang himself.

He used videos and sounds with his music — images of kids running with dogs, and the sound of a hound dog baying, etc. — because, he says, he knew it would also capture people’s attention.

His songs became so popular that the National Wildlife Federation asked him to take the ads to all 50 states. 

Ott has presented his “Listen to the Eagle” program at all 50 state governors’ conventions, to over a million school children, and to six state legislative sessions. He has sung for two U.S. presidents at their request.

He also has also appeared with many big-name country music stars on the Grand Ole Opry, the “Porter Wagner Show with Dolly Parton, and all major national talk shows. “I didn’t want to be a star,” he says. “I was happy doing what I was doing.  I ‘m a Mississippi boy, and my roots run deep in this Mississippi soil.

“We have some great farm families in our state, and I truly believe farmers make the world go ‘round. If it wasn’t for farmers, we couldn’t keep our country going. We must never get to the point where we depend on other countries for our food.”

Ott was instrumental in helping Farm Bureau promote its campaign for an eminent domain initiative.

“He worked tirelessly,” Knight says.