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Extension agents get producer input
BILOXI – Coastal producers and growers shared their concerns and needs at a Mississippi State University listening session Feb. 28 in Biloxi.
The fifth annual Producer Advisory Council meeting was held at MSU’s Coastal Research and Extension Center. Eleven commodity groups attended the meeting. They represented commercial ornamental horticulture, home horticulture, fruits, vegetables, livestock, horses, cotton, corn, soybeans, peanuts, forestry, seafood and aquaculture, and bee keepers.
“Our job is definitely a partnership with the growers we assist,” Patricia Knight, MSU Coastal Research and Extension Center director, told those gathered. “We are here to serve you, and this meeting will help us determine where we need to direct our efforts.”
MSU Extension Director Gary Jackson said heeding clients’ needs is vital to the work Extension does throughout the state.
“We take seriously the things you tell us we need to be working on,” he said. “You keep us focused on the goals and objectives that are important to Mississippians.”
The difficult economy makes the Producer Advisory Council meeting even more significant, said George Hopper, Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station director.
“During these difficult budget times, we must be sure we are serving Mississippi’s producers and conducting research on the highest priority issues,” he said. “We will remain focused on application- and mission-oriented research to enhance economic development for all of our communities.”
Commercial horticulture representatives said their needs include labor retention and training, mite control on herbs, weed control and development of an over-top fertilization device.
“Getting and keeping labor continues to be a problem for commercial horticulture businesses,” said Wayne Porter, group representative and MSU Extension Horticulture Agent in Lauderdale County. “This is hard work, and it does not pay a lot. Young people can go up north and get much better-paying jobs.”
The home horticulture group would like to have trials of Mississippi Medallion plants expanded to different locations in the state. They also asked for more information about growing citrus trees in home landscapes.
Fruit representatives said they have many new producers and need information on growing crops such as pomegranates, olives and new varieties of blueberries. They asked for help attracting and keeping labor for blueberry growers, and for more information on fertilizing fruit trees and current pecan tree research.
The vegetable group acknowledged the large number of new growers and the need to provide education on the basics of vegetable production. They also requested wilt-resistant vegetable varieties, late-season squash varieties and training on marketing at farmer’s markets.
Livestock representatives said a newsletter to keep producers and Extension personnel informed about current research would be useful.
Row crop producers said they need information on potash uptakes by variety for cotton and information on corn varieties and technology. Peanut growers would like to develop a timetable for harvest by installing weather stations in various locations and then analyzing the collected data.
Forestry representatives want to know how Extension can help them deal with the increased labor cost of tree planting and the destruction of forests by wild hogs. Producers discussed the need to recruit young people to the logging industry and the barriers of recruitment, such as start-up costs.
The seafood and aquaculture group talked about training to be held for shrimpers and their crews to prepare for the possibility of fires onboard ship while at sea. They plan to hold fire drills at least once a month.
Representatives of the horse group said the public needs to know about the expense of horse ownership. Unexpected expenses can cause starvation and neglect, they said.
Apiculture representatives, or bee keepers, want to know how to market products, other than honey, such as waxes and products for medical uses. A study conducted by the Mississippi Bee Keepers Association did not reap the results they hoped for, so they discussed rewording the questionnaire and conducting it again.