Giving Thanks to Mississippi Farmers

November 22, 2010

As many of us gather around the dinner table with family and friends this Thanksgiving, we often forget about the hard work that makes our holiday feast possible. I am not talking about my grandmother’s sweet potato pie recipe that my wife, Gayle, prepares each year – although she deserves a great deal of thanks. I am talking about our local farmers and food producers who contribute to our Thanksgiving dinner.

                         Farming throughout Mississippi

Farming is an important way of life for tens of thousands of Mississippians, passed down from generation to generation.  With more than 42,000 farms in the state, each county has an agricultural sector.  A majority of these farms are small businesses.  Food production is Mississippi’s largest job creator, employing more than one in four people either directly or indirectly. 

Soybeans, corn, and rice are just some of the crops in our state that add to the $6.3 billion agriculture industry. Mississippi also provides Americans with one of the best items on the Thanksgiving dinner table – the sweet potato.  Vardaman, Mississippi, is the sweet potato capitol of the world and continues to be one of the nation’s top producers of this staple food.

                         Uncertainty Faced by Farmers

Farming is a difficult and unpredictable industry because of the changes in both the weather and the government.  While we cannot control the weather, we can stop the policies coming out of Washington that often hit agriculture the hardest.

Recent attempts by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate carbon dioxide emissions would be a significant roadblock for our farmers and a dramatic overstep of the EPA’s authority.  Carbon dioxide is a normal byproduct of farms and ranches, so capping this gas would severely impair many agricultural communities. Mississippi farmers already face rising production costs. A cap-and-trade bill would force many to shut down their operations, resulting in more job loss.  That is why I continue to fight against the Obama administration’s damaging proposal to tax CO2.

High taxes are another obstacle impacting the success and profitability of our farmers. Individuals at all income levels will pay more to the federal government if Congress does not extend the current tax rates by the end of the year.  Eliminating the death tax needs to be part of any tax relief package. This harmful tax is a great threat to family farms. Repealing the death tax would ensure that Mississippi farmers are not forced to sell the family business to pay Uncle Sam when a loved one dies. 

                        Looking to the Future of Farming

Congress should pass responsible legislation that does not take away the American farmers opportunity to prosper.  I oppose a carbon tax and other tax hikes that would inhibit productivity for producers and devastate agricultural communities.  As Congress begins working on the farm bill next year, it is important that Mississippi farmers are protected while at the same time cutting wasteful spending.  Farming should continue to be an important part of America’s landscape for future generations.