Mike McCormick, president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation says that the organization is well positioned to lead Mississippi's farmers to a productive future as the organization heads into its 100th year.
McCormick is in his seventh year as president of the organization. He farms in Jefferson County, outside of Natchez, Miss. He runs a cow/calf and timber operation on farmland that has been in the family since the 1820s.
"I asked Dad why they stopped, where they stopped," he said. "He told me that they were looking for a place to grow cotton and a place that had a good water supply."
Two hundred years later, McCormick is helping to lead Mississippi farmers forward and navigate a complicated route.
"Mississippi is going to have a bright future moving forward. I think we're blessed to be able to do what we're going to need to do. We need to be good stewards. We need to watch out to make sure we don't lose our ability to farm."
McCormick is in his seventh year as president of the organization. He farms in Jefferson County, outside of Natchez, Miss. (Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation)
He noted that the Farm Bureau in Mississippi was set up to be the voice of agriculture and to carry the legislative burden of farmers so that they can focus on what they need to do on the farm.
"I don't think there's ever been a time where the farmers need an organization like Farm Bureau more than they need it today - to be that collective voice - because we have got to speak loudly together," he said.
Much like today, when the Mississippi Farm Bureau was organized in 1922, the country was coming out of a war and a pandemic had ravaged the nation.
"It was a tough time in American history," he said. "World War I was ending; we had a pandemic - the Spanish flu that was ravaging the nation.
"And you look at a hundred years later, it's amazing how history repeats itself. We're ending some conflicts around the world and another pandemic is ravaging us.
He also pointed out that farmers are less than 2% of the U.S. population and that it is especially important to work collectively to represent those growers. All 82 counties in Mississippi are represented by the Farm Bureau and all have their own county organizations.
"We are truly a grassroots organization and I think Farm Bureau gets grassroots better than anybody else in America," he said.
The Mississippi Farm Bureau plans to celebrate its 100th year throughout 2022.
"We want to celebrate a hundred years of agriculture here in the state and a hundred years of driving Mississippi's economy," he said. "Not just a hundred years of farm bureau."
They are planning monthly highlights through social media to get information out to the membership and to people throughout the state. They are also planning two major events in 2022, a summer celebration and meeting on the Mississippi Gulf coast in July and the big celebration at the annual meeting in early December.
"In December we're planning on a trade show at the Trade Mart in downtown Jackson," he said. "We look forward to getting a lot of people involved with that. We have a standing list of people that want to be involved. We hope to have a birthday cake and a lot of celebration of what a hundred years of Farm Bureau looks like."
They are also planning on entertainment at the Coliseum, political speakers and events for 4-H and FFA students. He said he wants to let attendees see what the youth and the future of agriculture in Mississippi looks like.
But more importantly McCormick says that there are daily challenges that the organization is working on for the growers in the state.
"If you look at strictly agricultural issues right now, there is a lot of inflation in the marketplace," he said. "Food prices are high and our farmers are getting very little to none of that back on their side, especially in the livestock industry."
As a beef cattle producer he said that wholesale beef is up 18%, but it's hard to see how beef producers are going to make it through next year with current budgets. There is some federal legislation that may move along with a push from Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb), along with Mississippi's Senator Cindy Hyde Smith.
"We're very fortunate to have a livestock producer as a U.S. Senator," he said. "So we are working with them to maybe get some more transparency in the marketplace on how the beef cattle and cow/calf producer can share in the profits of the industry."
Rural broadband and infrastructure are hot topics for Farm Bureau members and McCormick just finished a two-year appointment to the Federal Communications Commission's precision ag task force. The committees report was approved in November and will be delivered to the FCC in December as agriculture is trying to keep its needs in the forefront of the discussion when money is being expended on rural broadband.
"It can't just come to the house or to the farm buildings," he said. "It's got to actually get to the tractor. It's got to get to the combine. It's got to get to all the equipment that we're using out in the fields. It's important to us staying on the cutting edge of production agriculture."
He said that tax policy is important as well – sales tax exemptions, estate taxes and elimination of stepped-up basis.
"It's hard to understand how you buy a farm and pay taxes on all the money that you put into your farm and then when you pass away your children or the people that you're leaving it to are going to have to rebuy that from the government," he said. "It's a pretty tough deal and it splits up farms."
The organization is continuing to push the Yazoo pump project to protect farmland, homes and wildlife.
"We feel like there are some headwinds out there pushing back against us," he said. "We really need to protect our vulnerable land, down in the South Delta by completing a project that was promised decades ago."
As farmers and Congress start looking at the next farm bill, the priority of the Mississippi Farm Bureau is to protect the farm safety net programs like Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and dairy programs.
"It reduces the risk for the farmer," he said. "To have the ability of having crop insurance there when you need it to be a stop gap to losing everything you have is tremendously important to us."
Environmental issues are important, as well, and current programs in the farm bill can enhance the farm environment and incentivize producers. McCormick noted that farmers in Mississippi have used the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to tremendous success.
Overall, he struck a positive note regarding agriculture in Mississippi.
"We have a wonderful staff and I give credit to them for anything that we get accomplished," McCormick said. "We've moved into so many different roles since I've been here, but it was really me just getting back out of the way and letting our staff go in the direction that they need to.
"It's important to tell our own story through the process to show the positive things that we're doing well," he said.