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Legislators learn at research facility

The next time a funding request arrives at the Mississippi state capitol from Mississippi State University, the Delta Research and Extension Center, or the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center, its chances of getting approved might be a little bit better than in previous legislative sessions.

The thanks for that go, in part, to Delta Council. The Stoneville, Miss.-based organization recently hosted a tour of state and federal research facilities in the Delta area. Five members of the Mississippi Senate Committee on Industrial Farming, including Bill Harvey, Nickey Browning, Rob Smith, Bill Canon and Joe Stogner, participated in the tour.

State Sen. Nickey Browning of Ecru, Miss., says, "We're all members of the Senate Agriculture Committee and our visit here allows us to meet the best researchers in the world and get a closer look at the current agricultural-related research going on in Mississippi. We are seeing firsthand that the industry we have today won't be here in 10 years without this research because new problems crop up every day and continual research is needed to find the answers to these problems."

Joe Stogner, chairman of both the Senate Agricultural Committee and the Senate Agricultural Appropriations Committee in the Mississippi Legislature, says, "We've got to do enough research to keep agriculture and aquaculture going in the state of Mississippi."

State Sen. Rob Smith of Richland, Miss., agrees. "Visits like these let us actually get to see researchers and agricultural leaders face-to-face, which helps us develop relationships with the people who are affected by the agricultural funding bills we have before us in the Senate."

"The importance of visits like this are that a lot of state legislators are unfamiliar with MAFES (the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Stations) and what MAFES does," Smith says. "This is my third visit to Stoneville and I'm more impressed every time I visit."

Bill Harvey, chairman of the Mississippi Senate Forestry Committee, believes it's important for the state's politicians to be exposed to the research going on at Mississippi facilities. "Anybody that comes up here can't help but be extremely impressed. Before this visit I was unaware this aquaculture research facility was equipped to do the things it does."

Browning adds, "This helps me be better able to understand the agricultural issues I'm voting for."

The Senate Committee on Industrial Farming is responsible for state policy related to the management of state-owned cropland such as the Parchman Penitentiary and agriculture research projects undertaken by Mississippi State University and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Stations.

Chip Morgan, executive director of Delta Council, says, "If anything good happens in agriculture in the state of Mississippi, then someone on this state senate committee likely had something to do with it. They treat agriculture in the Delta just like they treat the constituents in their own districts."

"Many Mississippi politicians really don't know the nuts and bolts of agriculture and research is a critical part of that," Smith says. "Delta Council, in the future, should push for state candidates to declare a farm policy and force candidates for governor to debate their farm policies. They need to understand agriculture and to develop plans for the critical needs of agriculture. "That Cochran is one of the only guys, so far, that have taken up the fight. That's why developing these relationships is so important."

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