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Delta farmer wins title, credits MSU
By Kaitlyn Byrne
MSU Office of Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- After farming for 42 years, Abbott Myers of Dundee, Miss., has been named the Mississippi winner of the 2013 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. The award is sponsored by Swisher International and the Sunbelt Expo.
Myers said earning the title of Mississippi’s farmer of the year is exciting after so many years of farming, and he sees the award as an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of agriculture.
“I don’t know why I was chosen for this award, but I am enthusiastic about farming and spend a lot of time doing it,” he said. “The public thinks highly of farmers, but they need to know more about what exactly we do. We care about the food and want to provide safe food to feed the world.”
Myers said he has discovered a farmer must be a “jack of all trades” to repair equipment, manage finances and delegate labor -- not to mention grow crops. Myers, who grows rice, soybeans and corn on 7,138 acres of land, said he relies on the Mississippi State University Extension Service for information on research results and advice from industry experts.
“Specialists with Extension taught me how to plant early beans,” he said. “My neighbors thought I was crazy because I planted beans in March, but after that crop they wanted to know what I did because it was successful.”
Myers said he can count on MSU’s Extension Service to offer accurate and unbiased information when he has questions about a particular farming method or chemical.
“Companies are trying to sell you something because their first job is to look after themselves,” he said. “But the Extension Service gives objective results on planting practices, fertilizing practices and what chemicals are safe to use. The Extension website is really helpful because I can just pull up all of the data and current research.”
Joe Street, Extension associate director, said Myers deserves the recognition and honor of being named the state’s farmer of the year.
“Abbott has taken a mostly clay soil farm, which was not very productive, and made it into a very impressive farming operation,” Street said. “He is very conscientious about protecting and conserving the land he farms. He has embraced new technology to improve the efficiency of his operation.”
While farming over the past four decades, Myers said costs for crops, equipment and mistakes have risen. While he paid only $12,500 for his first combine in 1972, he said he spent $750,000 for two new combines this year.
“You can buy a pretty nice house for that price,” Myers said. “You used to be able to learn everything from your forefathers or just guess and learn through mistakes. Now, though, mistakes are too costly, so you have to have a plan and understand the science behind it. That’s where Extension is able to help.”
Myers said the agriculture industry has faced many challenges over the years, but the largest obstacle farmers face today is meeting new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards while remaining competitive with imports from countries that do not have such strict inspection regulations.
“More people from agriculture need to be involved in politics,” he said. “It’s going to take everyone from the ag industry to raise awareness about the importance of farming in America. Yes, farmers want to make money, but we also want to feed the world. Turn us loose, and we can produce the food the world needs for the future.”
On Oct. 15, Myers will compete with nine other Southeast state finalists to determine who wins the overall title of farmer of the year, including a $15,000 cash prize.