MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Good health practices and cleaning habits can help protect people from widespread colds and flu during the peak of the season.
Dr. Mary Currier, state epidemiologist, said Mississippi has experienced an average flu season. The best news is that reports have been on two strains of Influenza A, which are easier to treat than Influenza B. Unfortunately, one of the strains (A-Sidney) could not be controlled by the vaccine.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Company is coming to Mississippi in the form of hundreds of thousands of tourists, and Mississippians are encouraged to have the state ready for visitors.
First Lady Pat Fordice initiated the Splendors of Mississippi program last fall to complement the upcoming Splendors of Versailles and the International Ballet Competition, both to be held in Jackson this year. Her two-part beautification program is encouraging the planting of yellow, white and gold flowers all over the state, and keeping roadways free of litter.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Few areas of the financial world remained untouched by Asia's economic troubles that started in October, but Mississippi farmers are weathering it well.
Agricultural markets were shaken when Asian stock markets plummeted last fall. Hardest hit were Indonesia, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan. These countries along the Pacific Rim have traditionally been strong consumers of American grain, cotton and poultry.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The topic of many causal conversations this winter is no light matter to farmers who must make decisions for the upcoming year based in part on the weather.
January has not brought the freezing temperatures it usually does, and warmer weather means more crop pests can survive until spring. But a lack of cold weather did not stop the rain, which has brought area flooding to some portions of the state.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's rich soil has a reputation for producing impressive cotton crops, but Georgia's boll weevil-free fields have rapidly become the top Southeast producers.
"When the market is not strong, growers need all the breaks they can get to make a profit," said Dr. Michael Ouart, extension state program leader for agriculture and natural resources at Mississippi State University. "If boll weevils are not a control factor, growers can invest that money in other ways to produce higher yields."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's catfish industry already leads the world in production, and in 1997 increased 22 percent to record a $380 million farm gate value in the state.
The latest figures show that Mississippi had 102,000 acres of catfish ponds as of Jan. 1, 1997. The United States had a total of 177,300. Twenty years ago, Mississippi had just 17,000 acres of catfish ponds.
Jim Steeby, area extension aquaculture agent in the Delta, said no other place in the nation is so uniquely equipped for catfish production.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Weather and Mississippi State University played major roles in the record yields state farmers have produced in recent years among Mississippi's top row crops.
In 1997, cotton farmers saw their highest production with 896 pounds harvested per acre. Soybeans matched 1996's second highest production with 31 bushels an acre, while corn set a new record at 107 bushels per acre. Rice and wheat also set yield records in the past two years.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Soybean farmers have relied on variety testing results for many years, and now they can view the latest results on the Internet.
Since 1982, the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station, in cooperation with Mississippi State University and the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board, has tested various soybean varieties. Farmers receive the results through MAFES and extension publications and by word of mouth.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Newlyweds can avoid the common problem of gaining weight by eating healthy and exercising as a team.
"Exercise is important for everyone's physical and emotional condition," said Linda Patterson, extension health specialist at Mississippi State University. "It's a great way to relieve stress and control weight."
Patterson said early in a marriage is a good time to develop a habit of regular exercise.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- One of the biggest and most immediate challenges facing newly-married couples is choosing and paying for their first home.
Couples have several housing options from which to choose. They may choose to rent an apartment or a house, or they can buy or build a house.
Dr. Frances Graham, extension housing specialist at Mississippi State University, said most young couples choose to rent at first. They need time to decide and agree on their preferences and tastes for a more permanent home.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- If the thought of an expensive wedding is discouraging, consider a variety of alternatives to keep costs down.
Dr. Beverly Howell, extension family economics and management specialist at Mississippi State University, said many young couples today choose to keep their wedding budget as low as possible in order to save money for other things.
"Many young couples are asking themselves if they want to put a lot of money into the wedding," Howell said.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Even though preparing for a wedding is usually a stressful time for the bride and groom, stress does not have to take control. By staying organized and healthy a couple can overcome stress and have a joyful wedding.
Linda Patterson, extension health specialist at Mississippi State University, said stress is created by the mind and couples should watch their thoughts.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The forestry industry continued its record breaking pace in the state, setting its 10th record in 11 years with 1997's estimated value of $1.22 billion.
Dr. Bob Daniels, extension forestry specialist at Mississippi State University, projected a 3 percent increase over 1996's forestry value. Pine prices and production were up, while hardwood saw a slight price increase and harvest decrease.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- State poultry producers saw record broiler and egg production with 1997 values up 6 percent to more than $1.43 billion.
Dr. Wallace Morgan, head of Mississippi State University's poultry department, said the state's poultry industry has grown steadily for the last 10 years. Mississippi now ranks No. 4 nationally in broiler production.
"Domestic consumption continues to increase, our exports have been growing very rapidly and Mississippi has been a favored state for growth," Morgan said.