Central area producers discuss priorities with MSU

Approximately 180 central Mississippi agricultural producers and Mississippi State University experts met on Feb. 16 to discuss research and educational priorities for the upcoming year.

By: Susan M. Collins-Smith

The Central Mississippi Producer Advisory Council Meeting provides a formal setting for producers and industry professionals to present input on research and educational programs offered by agents, specialists and researchers with the MSU Extension Service and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.

"This is a crucial phase of the process we go through to decide what issues we should focus on each year," said Sherry Surrette, Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center head. "We appreciate your input, and we will review your suggestions and find ways to address your concerns and requests."

Agriculture is Mississippi's largest industry, producing a farm-gate value of $7.4 billion in 2015, said Bill Herndon, associate vice president for the MSU Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine. Farm-gate value is the value of food and fiber commodities produced in the state.

"We have a vibrant agriculture industry in this state, and the growth in enrollment in our three colleges—the College of Ag and Life Sciences, the College of Forest Resources and the College of Veterinary Medicine—proves students are engaged and excited about the future," Herndon said.

The industry's vitality is a testament to the effect Extension has on the agricultural community on a daily basis, said Extension Director Gary Jackson.

"I know our work makes a positive impact, because our clients tell us it does," Jackson said. "It is our job to help producers and industry in this state make decisions that impact all Mississippian's lives. That process begins here."

The eight commodity groups represented were bees, dairy, vegetables, ag crops, forestry and wildlife, fruits and nuts, small ruminants and swine, and beef, forages and equine.

The bee group wants to increase youth involvement through 4-H, FFA and other organizations. They requested accelerated research on the control of small hive beetles and educational resources on harmful and safe landscape plants for bees.

Dairy producers want continued research and educational programs on successful forage production with an emphasis on summer forages and legumes. They asked for research and Extension programs on natural and organic product production and on-farm milk and dairy product processing and production. They also want to continue efforts to increase consumer awareness of milk and dairy products and increase youth education about dairy animals, food and large animal medicine careers.

The vegetable group asked for continued research and education on weed, insect, disease and wildlife control.

Ag crop producers requested more research on sugarcane aphids and herbicide resistant weeds. They asked for educational programs on upcoming changes to worker protection standards and other federal law changes. They also want continued education on sustainability practices, including cover crops and conventional production practices.

The forestry and wildlife group wants to explore drone technology applications and development of specialty markets, especially for timber.

Fruit and nut producers requested more education on irrigation management and pruning methods. They said small-group, hands-on trainings on some topics would be beneficial as well.

Producers of small ruminants and swine would like classes on organic production and market identification for products.

The beef, forages and equine group asked for research on ryegrass varieties to show impact on forage yields and animal production. They also requested classes on new vaccination regulations and marketing local beef.

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