After many years of the Cotton Farming magazine staff asking me to write a “My Turn” article, I did so in May 2017. I received so many positive reactions from the readers I thought I would try again. This time I want to focus on using lobbying in the USA to push agriculture forward in a positive direction.
As I look back on my career, I have been blessed to work in the agricultural business. There is no other profession where you, as the producer, are in charge of your vocation.
However, you have to be aware of the many obstacles you face each growing season. I have to say I have never met a “happy” grower. He or she could have come off the most abundant yields, but the price wasn’t right, the equipment needs upgrading, etc.
Let’s examine what producers face each season as they plan to continue farming. Capital outlay is invested up front to prepare land, plant the crop, control water, fertilize and use pesticides as needed. Then farmers hope weather accommodates harvest and markets exist to take the crop.
If that’s not frustrating enough, there are various governmental agencies putting their stamps on commodity opportunity in the USA. These constraints have led to the need for establishing lobbying organizations for the producer groups.
After many years of having the opportunity to work across the USA with many farmers and their lobbying groups, I think the Delta Council in Mississippi offers a good example of how to achieve results. The Council represents the counties in the Mississippi Delta.
All business interests are represented with the goal to reach the best annual results from state and federal oversight. Their committees hammer out the issues each year to take to either Jackson or Washington, D.C. When a consensus is reached, they approach the appropriate group and follow up as necessary until they succeed.
There has been a recent change in leadership at the Delta Council. Vice President Chip Morgan has retired after many years as the go-to-man to get issues resolved. I look at Chip as the example of someone to mimic to get the lobbying job done. I often referred to him as someone harder to contact than the U.S. president unless he wanted to get in touch with you to get a job done.
He would not let go of an issue important to the Council’s membership. Chip trained under the legend B.F. Smith, who was instrumental in establishing the Delta Council. Frank Howell (The Most Important Man in the Delta) has done the same with Chip, so the Council should be in good hands for the future.
My claim to fame with the Delta Council is the cypress tree and plaque in my name situated by the Council headquarters building. When announced, my wife said that was the only time she ever saw me speechless. My former mentor, Jim Burridge, said “Eddie Boy, when you quit giving the Council money, they will cut that son-of-a-bitch down.” So far, still standing.
I observe many more young producers and company reps each year. Hopefully, they are taking time to learn from their elders about how to keep the agricultural business strong. Most American citizens don’t realize how few people are responsible for their food and fiber.
Some think if we use the land differently, we can reduce pollution and get our food and fiber from other countries. They need to pay more attention to the daily news harping on tariffs, wars, etc. to see how foolish this is. So those of you reading this, please consider filling a lobbying position either locally or nationally. Your experience could be useful for operations or your local area.
It doesn’t take much to be a good lobbyist.
1. Know your subject,
2. Tell the truth,
3. Don’t promise more than you can deliver,
4. Deliver what’s promised on time.
Through the Women for Agriculture in Mississippi, we have just given our third round of scholarships in honor of Alma Cherry and Pam Steele for women focusing on agriculture at Mississippi State University. Thanks to those of you who contributed.
As we continue this effort, if you want to contribute, please contact me. Thanks for letting the No. 2 America’s guest present some things to dwell on. Coming to you from BugDoc Farms in New Tazewell, Tennessee.
— Dr. Ed Cherry