Mark Keenum, chief of staff for Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., is the 2003 recipient of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation's prestigious Distinguished Service Award. Keenum, a native of Corinth, Miss., was honored by MFBF at the organization's annual winter meeting in Jackson, Miss.

“When it comes to providing service to agriculture, very few individuals have done more than our recipient of this year's Distinguished Service Award,” said MFBF president David Waide in his presentation to Keenum. “As a member of Sen. Thad Cochran's staff, Mark has always been available to Mississippi agricultural leaders to discuss agriculture issues. He frequently attends meetings with farmers where he discusses the latest issues and listens to their concerns.”

As an advisor to Cochran, Keenum, who holds a doctorate degree in agricultural economics from Mississippi State University, aided in the passage of the 1990, 1996 and 2002 farm bills and was honored in 1996 with the Farm Policy Commendation award.

He assumed his current role as chief of staff for Cochran in January 1997, a position that leaves him responsible for coordinating and managing all administrative functions of Cochran's Washington, D.C., and Mississippi offices.

“He has been honored for his service to agriculture in numerous ways,” said Waide, “including being named the 1997 alumni fellow for MSU's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“He has been an invaluable person for Mississippi agriculture and an extremely effective advocate for the farmers of Mississippi. I am proud indeed to call him my friend,” said Waide.

Keenum, who returned to Mississippi to receive the award in person, called it “by far the greatest honor I have ever received. It's special for me because it comes from an organization as outstanding as the Mississippi Farm Bureau,” said Keenum.