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Ag producers meet to tell research, education needs

VERONA -- On Feb. 20, the nation’s oldest group of its type met for the 55th time at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona.

The North Mississippi Producer Advisory Committee has met every year since 1953 and its purpose has remained the same -- to tell Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station personnel the research and education needs of agricultural producers in 27 north Mississippi counties.

“This is the model for this type of event all over the United States,” said Reuben Moore, associate MAFES director. “When anyone wants to establish a producer group to tell university researchers and Extension personnel about their needs, they look to north Mississippi.”

Almost 200 producers representing 12 commodities attended the 2008 meeting. They met in commodity groups to discuss their needs, with representatives of each group reporting to Extension and experiment station representatives at the end of the meeting.

The agricultural products represented at the meeting included aquaculture, beef cattle, cotton, dairy, equine, forestry, fruit and vegetables, grain crops, horticultural crops, sweet potatoes, swine and turf grass.

Almost every group expressed concern about rising energy costs and asked for MSU research with energy-efficient management practices and with alternative sources of energy.

The fruit and vegetable group representative, Ralph Hanskiewicz of Union County, said the group also discussed the need for increased promotion of local farmers markets.

“If you produce and sell locally, it gives the customer a fresher product without having to drive a long distance,” he said.

Marketing information and research were important topics for the livestock groups. The swine producers also discussed the need for developing specialty markets for small, independent growers. The dairy producers asked for a dairy short course through MSU Extension and for a partnership with other universities in the Southeast for mastitis research.

The north Mississippi turf grass producers asked for university help educating their customers.

“There is a need to educate the public on how to properly take care of turf,” said turf representative Chris Hussey of Lee County. “Turf is also an industry that needs additional research on ways to reduce the cost of production.”

The input received at the Verona meeting will help MSU better serve agricultural producers of all types, said Alan Blaine, head of the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center.

“Agriculture is an important part of the economy in Mississippi, but producers are facing challenges from high input costs, competition from imports and the need to adapt new technology to fit their operations,” he said. “The things we heard here today are important in helping MSU work with producers in meeting those challenges.”

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Writer: Bob Ratliff

Released: Feb. 28, 2008
Contact: Alan Blaine, (662) 566-2201