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Kenneth Hood's contributions to agriculture tough act to follow

How can you say no to Kenneth Hood? That thought leaped out the other day while I was listening to Hood speak at a Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmer/Rancher Symposium.

Hood was introduced as a cotton farmer, ginner, former vice chairman and chairman of the National Cotton Council and former president of the Delta Council, and he seemed embarrassed at that list.

But those who have followed his career know he has also served as president of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corp., the National Association of Farmer-Elected Committee and the Southern and National Cotton Ginners Associations, chairman of the American Farm Bureau's cotton committee and many other positions.

Hood conceded that he is involved in a lot of activities and said he couldn't do what he does without his brothers — Howard, Curtis and Cary — who are partners with him in Hood Farms, a 12,000-acre cotton, milo and soybean operation at Perthshire, Miss.

(One of Hood's favorite story lines is to pick out someone in the audience from a neighboring farm in Bolivar County and ask him if his brothers have “fired him” while he's been gone to Washington or California or some other location.

(One of my favorites involves a trip to his farm several years ago. I spotted someone that I took to be a mechanic bent over, removing a part from a tractor. When I got up close, Kenneth rose up with a wrench in his hand and explained he had to replace an alternator to get the tractor back in the field.)

The topic Hood was asked to speak on, “How Political Involvement Impacts Public Policy,” was one he knows well. He chaired the Cotton Council during the last farm bill debate and helped win approval of its counter-cyclical payments provision.

Hood also paid a personal price for his service, becoming the focus of a Wall Street Journal article that attempted to shift the blame for the impoverishment of Africa's cotton farmers to U.S. producers.

In his speech, Hood talked about the uncertainty surrounding the next farm bill and the need for farmers to get involved with local and national farm organizations and come up with new ideas for preserving U.S. agriculture.

He also cited John Adams, vice president under George Washington and the second president of the United States, as an example of someone who never failed to answer the call of his country.

“We might not be able to accomplish what John Adams did, but that doesn't mean we can't be active,” he said. “Contact your county Farm Bureau office and get involved. It will take a little time and effort and will probably cause you to be away from your farm occasionally. But you need to become engaged about the issues that are going to determine your livelihood unless you want someone else to do that for you.”

When you look at Kenneth Hood's commitment to agriculture, how can you say no to that?

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