Restock Dates: Please see our Farm Blog where we post our weekly newsletter for the latest updates

MS Senate Hearing Update - The Rest of the Story

written by

Ben Simmons

posted on

August 26, 2018

Farm Update - The meeting that almost did not happen! As you know, I testified before the MS Senate AG Committee Tuesday. However, this meeting almost did not happen because of politics and lobbyist efforts to shut it down. Here is what I was told: First, you have to understand this is an election year!

To use rooms in the State Capital the Senators have to reserve them ahead of time through Sen. Terry Burton who is the Senate Pro Tempore. When you Google his name he is listed as a "politician". He has been in the State Senate for 27 years and has a colorful past. The Pro Tempore is #2 over the Senate behind Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves - who is running to be the next MS Governor.

Burton sent his secretary and Capital Security to shut down the meeting. Nether Burton or Reeves wanted to be directly tied to their attempt to keep this meeting from happening. However, Senator Hill overcame the opposition and we were able to have the hearing.

You can view my slides and notes by clicking here. There were no questions from the Senators.

The following folks also testified before the Committee:
Rose Hancock, Poultry Farmer, Hancock Farms, Mize, Miss.
Nick Wallace, Chef/Culinary Artist/Entrepreneur, Jackson, Miss.
Katie Dixon, Chef/Restauranteur, Hattiesburg, Miss.
David Raines, Chef/Restauranteur/Custom Butcher, Jackson/Flora, Miss.

Mark Leggett, President of the MS Poultry Association, was in attendance. From what I heard, he was furious that the meeting took place. On the Association's website it says they represent the interest of ALL segments of the state's largest agricultural industry. If so, then why do they NOT support small farmers who provide a product that the large processors/ growers do not? We each serve two totally separate markets!

North Carolina has proven that both large processors and small direct market farms can coexist because in NC there are >1000 small farms who can process up to the Fed Exemption of 20,000/yr. where Sanderson Farms built their last processing plant in 2017 with a weekly capacity of 1.25 million chickens. Importantly, NC agricultural value is >$85 billion per year or 10.5 times MS agriculture value. If MS equaled NC then our annual agriculture industry would be $75 Billion!

Interviews held following the hearing:
MS Public Radio - click here
WDAM - click here (note that the footage aired live was not my farm. I called and had them correct using footage from my farm and chickens that you will see in this online version)
MS Matters - click here

I also had an interview with the documentary film crew set up by the MS Center for Public Policy that will be available at a later date.

Outcome: "I've been reading all of the state laws and regulations to determine what the answer is," Commissioner Gipson said."Today, I don't have the answer. I expect we'll be in discussions with the committee, whether a bill is required or not."

So, what do you think? Do you support politicians who what to restrict your food choice to only Big AG that makes large political donations to their campaigns? Or, do you support food freedom! As a consumer, you have two votes. The first is at the ballot box. The second vote is how you spend your food dollars.

There is a better way. Eat "Real Farm Foods" grown by a Local farmer you know and trust.

Lastly- I want to thank each of you who wrote to let us know you are praying for us. We appreciate your prayers very much and put our faith in God for the outcome.

Customer Feedback-
"I will pray for you as you testify in front of the MS Ag committee. May you be successful and have favor with God and man as Jesus did. " ~B Smith

Quote Worth Re-Quoting – “Republican Senator Angela Hill of Picayune is on the Agriculture Committee. She says she hopes Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson will make the call in favor of the small farmers and chefs. "Um that's the worst thing we could be doing is hindering our people who farm more naturally from getting their products to market and that's what we have been doing in the state of Mississippi. If it's okay for the USDA and it's okay for 40 other states it ought to be okay for Mississippi,' said Hill."

 As always, thank you for supporting our regenerative, local farm.
Ben & Beth

More from the blog

Are Foreign Imports "Local"?

It may surprise you that I do receive AND read several weekly newsletters from other farms that I know and trust. Last week, Paul Brown who owns Nourished By Nature in Bismark, ND (son of Gabe Brown) wrote a really good article on import beef and he agreed to let me share with my customers. So, here goes! If you recall, the last newsletter we sent out referred to the statistic that today, only 2% of the population in the US produces food for the entire country (plus imports) as compared to 17% in 1940. This is unprecedented and it makes me wonder, what happened over the last 80 years? And where will we be in another 80? No wait, how about 10 years??? Will all US food production be outsourced?

Product Updates & More

First, a quick followup from last week's email where I shared my letter to Sec. Watson. This generated a lot of interest and response from our customers - ALL very positive and thankful for us taking the stand we do. Several customers also shared that they were personal friends with Sec. Watson and would contact him regarding our farm. So far, I have not heard from him. Cindy shared the following: Thank you for speaking out about issues that many of us are very upset about and feel like we have no voice. Hopefully, Secretary Watson will actually do something. In my opinion, Farm Bureau is against most Mississippians. They were against the illegal land sales to the Chinese and other foreign countries who want to harm us. I was at the meeting at the Capitol a few months ago and saw it firsthand. They are against any legislation to protect pets, such as dogs and cats, from animal abusers, in addition to the chicken and dairy issues you mentioned above. I am no fan at all of Farm Bureau. They are a detriment to our state. But they have a powerful lobby and lots of friends in influential places . And lots of farmers, big farmers, are fans. I have always been a fan of ag commissioner Gipson and I expect he will run for governor one day. I’m not sure if it’s a political play, but it seems that he is quiet on most of these issues. One exception is the Land deals, because he did chair those groups and hold the hearings.

Letter To Sec. Watson MS Secretary of State

This week I received an email from Sec. Watson regarding his offices' plan and successes in eliminating administrative and MS Code bottlenecks that hold back business growth. He also asked for input on areas that affect our business. Have you ever heard the saying, "Be Careful What You Ask For?" Well, here is my response to Sec. Watson. I'm still waiting to hear back from him - which I truly hope will happen. Sec. Watson, first let me thank you for aggressively tackling these tough issues. Too many politicians today are mere pawns of