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Farmer: ‘We’ve got work to do’

Farmers farm when it’s hot, cold, dry, wet and bug infested. So they say they’re not going to let a COVID-19 outbreak come between them and their job.

“Coronavirus or no coronavirus, we’ve got work to do,” said Rep. Vince Mangold, R-Brookhaven, who raises cattle and chickens on his family farm in Lincoln County.

Mangold spent Tuesday morning picking up supplies for his chicken houses and will have chicks arriving this week. Those won’t be ready for months though. He’s working now, to ensure food will continue to be produced.

“We haven’t missed a beat,” said Mangold, who is on a temporary hiatus from the Legislative session during the virus outbreak. “If I stop what I’m doing, if the farmers quit, then you’re talking about a pandemic.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued a proclamation Tuesday — National Agriculture Day — recognizing the importance of America’s farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers: “Our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers in America are feeding and clothing the world. Now more than ever it’s important that the American people not forget that. Our farmers are resilient, and during these uncertain times they are still working, day in and day out, to produce what’s needed for our growing population.”

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who raises cattle in Lincoln County with her husband, Mike, argued Tuesday for sustaining agriculture production in Mississippi and the United States with provisions in a Phase 3 Coronavirus Disease relief package, which has stalled before a majority vote to pass it.

Hyde-Smith, in a Senate floor speech, focused on supporting farmers and ranchers in the pending Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

“Anyone who has been on social media has seen the empty shelves in the grocery stores throughout the country,” Hyde-Smith said. “The last shortage we need right now is within our American farmers.  We are going to be able to feed this country, but only if we keep the farmers in business.”

“I want to stress the importance of making sure the farmers and ranchers, including those wonderful farmers and ranchers in the state of Mississippi and throughout the country, can continue to do what they were born to do, and that is to produce our ag products to make sure this country will continue to sustain itself,” she said.

Mangold said farmers can’t slow down during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We’re going to go to the very end. We’re not going to stop. The world is depending on us,” he said. “The farmers have always been resilient they’ve got a job to do. It’s their life. It’s their passion. They’re not going to quit. As long as they’re able to go, they’re going to farm.”

The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce is releasing new guidance regarding the testing, certification and licensure of all pesticide operators and applicators regulated in Mississippi in light of the COVID-19 emergency, Commissioner Andy Gipson said.

“At this critical time when our farmers are getting ready to plant their crops, it is vital that we make available all resources to them so they can continue providing our food and fiber without disruption,” he said.

Commercial and licensed pesticide applicator licenses will be extended for one year.

Training for new private applicator certification will be handled by Mississippi State University Extension Service through the Lincoln County Extension Office, which is located on the second floor of the Lincoln County-Brookhaven Government Complex.

For an appointment or questions, call County Agent Rebecca Bates’ cell phone at 601-754-6165.

“That was an important move because many of those producers, their licenses may be expiring this month. They still need to be able to purchase restricted-use pesticides on their farms,” she said.

Bates is hopeful the COVID-19 quarantines will be over in time for the annual spring Brookhaven Farmers Market.

“Many of my farmers market producers have called and have been concerned. Will will we be past this by the end of May, which is when the market opens. So we’re already talking a little bit about what can we do,” she said.

A drive-thru farmers market is an option.

“We’re going to make sure that Brookhaven gets fresh fruits and vegetables and home baked breads and such is that. If we have to tweak it to make it work, then we will,” she said.

Gipson said food producers should be applauded for their continuing efforts.

“There is no better time than the present to take a moment to recognize our farmers and ranchers for their hard work and to thank them for supplying food, fiber, and shelter, not only for our families right here at home but also for the entire world,” he said. “Farmers are critical to our food supply chain. Simply put, without farmers, we don’t have food. Up until the last few weeks, we have taken for granted seeing full shelves at the grocery stores. The good news during the COVID-19 emergency is that our food supply is plentiful — all thanks to our American farmers and ranchers.”