This week's NASDA Member Spotlight is Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture Cindy Hyde Smith. Commissioner Hyde Smith was elected to her position in November 2011 and is currently serving as the Southern Region Representative on NASDA' Board of Directors.
How do you start your day?
The first thing that I do when I wake up each morning is to thank God for the day and to pray for the wisdom and the guidance to make good decisions as I serve the people of the State of Mississippi. Being a farm family, my husband and I then check the weather forecast. Facing a drought certainly strengthens your prayer life.
What is the most important function of your department?
I am committed to making sure farmers and ranchers – the backbone of our country – can continue to provide safe food and fiber at affordable prices while maintaining the utmost in consumer confidence. Also, carrying out our regulatory responsibilities as mandated by the Mississippi legislature with precision and efficiency is vital to ensuring that consumer confidence. Through our regulatory functions ranging from food safety inspections to enforcing petroleum and weights and measures laws, we protect the health and economic welfare of all citizens by ensuring food safety and fairness and equity in the marketplace. Furthermore, through our oversight of feed, seeds, and chemicals that are used in production agriculture, we have the important task of ensuring that our farmers and ranchers have the tools that they need in order be profitable and remain competitive.
What is the most rapidly expanding sector of agriculture or commodity in Mississippi?
Mississippi has experienced an increase in peanut production over the last several years. This production increase has led to an investment by private businesses to construct five buying points in the state.
Mississippi has also seen significant growth in the production of specialty crops. As a result, the number of farmers markets in the state has more than tripled in the past decade. Our farm to school program has also grown with the value of Mississippi produce purchased by schools more than doubling over the past few years. We have also seen a surge in agritourism, which generates approximately $150 million annually in the state and is now one of the fastest growing tourism markets. We currently have 70 agritourism operations registered with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture.
What do you think is missing from the conversation when we don’t have women at the table and in leadership roles?
When coming to the table to make a decision, it is imperative to have those with different perspectives and viewpoints involved in the discussion so that information from all sides and angles can be heard and considered. Often, women tend to offer a unique perspective when it comes to establishing a vision for the future and vetting possible solutions. In many instances, women tend to guide the human side of decision making and can patiently weigh all the circumstances.
In seven words or less, what is some advice you would offer your fellow agriculturalist?
Keep the Fait.