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State's County Agents Show Off Mississippi
JACKSON - Mississippi's Extension county agricultural agents asked for it, and they got one of the biggest conventions ever held in the capital city.
In 1996, Mississippi delegates to the annual meeting of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents competed against Kentucky for the opportunity to host the 2000 meeting in Jackson. About 1,450 members and their families attended this year's meeting Aug. 6 through 10.
"We had to do a lot of ground work to prepare the best bid," said Perry Lee, meeting committee chairman. "We had to name a location, set a budget and develop a great program to really sell the national association on the idea of coming to Mississippi in August."
NACAA President Curtis Grissom of Athens, Ala., said providing an educational program is a priority at the national convention.
"We want every agent to go home with information that will help them do their jobs better," Grissom said. "This convention has accomplished that goal and run as smoothly as any we've ever had and better than many."
Many companies, organizations and individuals contributed money to help offset the costs for holding the $250,000 meeting in Jackson.
"We couldn't have had the meeting here without the many contributions that reduced the costs of transporting and feeding this number of people and bringing outstanding speakers to the meeting," Lee said.
A major cost was the fleet of 28 buses that shuttled conventioneers to meeting sights and took more than 1,000 people on tours around the state. The Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau helped offset the $60,000 needed to provide transportation. The Wednesday tours were the largest loading of buses for a single organization in Mississippi history.
Twenty-six tours traveled throughout the state highlighting Mississippi's diverse agricultural industry. Additional trips during the meeting helped entertain spouses and children of NACAA members.
"The thing I am most proud of for Mississippi is the number of agents who have participated in payroll deductions to help raise money for this meeting," Lee said. "Out of their own pockets, our county agents contributed more than $40,000. We had to give sacrificially ourselves before we could go to others and ask for help."
Lee said the 2000 meeting was one of the least expensive NACAA meetings for individuals to attend because of the number of meals provided by other state agents' associations and Mississippi commodity groups. Beef, catfish and pork producer organizations provided suppers, and many other groups donated lunches during the meeting.
Mississippi's county agents also received assistance from the state's 4-H agents and Extension home economists.