Northeast Miss. producers discuss educational needs
VERONA, Miss. -- Producers come across issues each season that need to be addressed, whether they require new research on a problem or a commodity specialist who can help identify timely solutions.
For those people, February is the month to speak up. Specialists and scientists with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station are available specifically for them at three different MSU Research and Extension Center locations throughout the state during annual Producer Advisory Council meetings.
That day was Feb. 16 in northeast Mississippi. Extension Service and Experiment Station experts hosted the meeting at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona.
MSU Extension and Experiment Station personnel received producer input from 16 commodity groups, including apiculture/bees, aquaculture, beef, cotton, dairy, equine, forestry/wildlife, goats/sheep, grain crops, ornamentals, peanuts, poultry, sweet potatoes, swine, turf, and vegetables/fruits.
James Shannon, an MSU Extension agent based in Pontotoc County, conveyed the needs of swine producers to the entire audience after the groups rejoined for a general session.
“Our producers want us to continue to support the eradication and control of feral swine,” he said. “One of these needs that was also presented here last year was to support prioritizing an Extension specialist position and research support for the swine industry. Lastly, they wanted research on independent marketing options for our local and small producers.”
MSU Extension Interim Director Steve Martin described many instances in which new Extension specialist positions and research emphases were a direct result of suggestions from commodity groups at Producer Advisory Council meetings.
“One of the things we heard from you a few years ago was that we needed an equine specialist. It took a year or two, but we got one, and he’s here today,” Martin told producers. “It’s hard to imagine not having one now, but we used to not have a sweet potato specialist. That’s one thing we consistently heard about here in Verona, and we’ve had a sweet potato specialist now for about 10 years. More recently, we’ve added a small ruminant specialist.
“Within Extension, we’re always trying to do needs assessment,” he added. “We want to find out what our clientele needs are and try to meet those needs. Sometimes, the budget won’t allow us to do that immediately, but if we hear about a priority consistently and over time, we try to respond to that.”
Jane Parish, head of the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, said the meetings are critical in identifying both what producers need now and what they may need in several years.
“It may be research, or it may be something along the Extension side, some educational programs that you would like. Those are the things we need to hear,” Parish said. “Think about things we can do in the immediate future, but also think long term.”