BILL CRAWFORD: Farm Bill and Cochran important to Mississippi

BILL CRAWFORD

BILL CRAWFORD

How important is the Farm Bill to Mississippi? The answer is the same as for this question – how important are farms and forestry to Mississippi’s economy?

Well, 65 percent of Mississippi’s 30 million acres of land is forest land. Approximately 125,000 landowners participate in $1.17 billion in forestry production per year. Forestry is the focus of Title VIII of the Farm Bill.

Nearly 1,500 poultry farms generated $2.7 billion in broiler, egg and chicken production in 2013. Another 2,700 farms produced soybean crops valued at $993 million. Another 2,113 farms produced corn crops valued at $613 million. About 730 farms produced cotton crops valued at $331 million. Just over 17,550 cattle farms generated production valued at $289 million. And 125 catfish operations generated production valued at $178 million. Then there were hog, rice, wheat, peanut, dairy and sweet potato farms, too. Title I of the Farm Bill deals with farm commodities.

Mississippi ag exports hit $1.3 billion in 2012. Title III of the Farm Bill deals with trade.

Altogether, farms and forestry generated $7.3 billion in state economic impact in 2013, as estimated by the Mississippi State University Extension Service. That accounts for about 21 percent of the state’s total economy and 29 percent of total state employment.

So, without even considering Title V, the Farm Bill is pretty darn important to Mississippi.

Title V is the Nutrition title that includes the SNAP program (food stamps). In October USDA reported 671,463 Mississippians participated in SNAP. That’s about double the number who participated in 2004 and represents 22.5 percent of the state population. This increase shows the tremendous negative impact the Great Recession had, since SNAP only serves low-wage workers, the unemployed and low-income elderly and disabled persons. Total SNAP payments to Mississippians in 2012 totaled $972.5 million. Clearly, Title V of the Farm Bill is also important to Mississippi.

As you may be aware, passing the complex Farm Bill has proven difficult. House Republicans want to cut crop subsidies and SNAP payments. Sequestration cuts everything. Farmers from different regions are at odds about which crops get the best deal.

Resolving issues and getting a bill passed will take strong, persistent leadership. A resolution that preserves Mississippi’s important farm/forest economy and provides reasonable cuts to SNAP payments will take strong, persistent, pro-Mississippi leadership.

If there is a leader who provides both, it is highly respected Sen. Thad Cochran. A champion of Mississippi agriculture for over 40 years, Cochran is the ranking Republican member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and one of four leaders negotiating the Farm Bill.

Cochran wants a farm bill “that will reform and modernize programs, produce budget savings at the same time, and provide certainty about the government’s role to producers and consumers alike.”

Be glad we have Thad.

Bill Crawford (crawfolk@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian. Crawford also served for a time as a deputy director of the Mississippi Development Authority under appointment from former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour.

  • Dave Young

    • Thad has done a great deal in the past for Mississippi. However, lately he has aligned with the Reed and Pelosi thugs. His support of AHCA, sent American Military technology and equipment to a war torn country in support of the Muslem Brotherhood and the raising of our debt to 17 Trillion +. Thad has got to go…don’t believe me…go look at his voting record…He has lost touch with Mississippi values…

    • Jack Makokov

      Find me a good alternative to Cochran’s neo-confederate, anti-vaxxer, “JEEBUS TOLD ME TO RUN (but I bought this cool campaign bus and was gonna run anyway),” tea party-backed dolt and I’ll vote for him or her. And an opponent who doesn’t believe people kill because of “hip-hopping” and espousing other ignorant theories would be great as well.