A Brief History of Farm Bureau in Mississippi
1917 - American farmers responded to
the need of producing more farm commodities in the interest of national
security associated with World War I.
1918 - The wartime demand for increased
production ended. Surpluses became a real problem for the first time in
the nation's history. County agents organized car-lot shipments of livestock
to markets in northern states.
1919 - The farm dilemma was nationwide.
Organizational meetings of the American Farm Bureau were held, first in
New York and then Chicago. Mississippi sent two delegates to Chicago,
C.L. Neill and John Willis, who helped charter the AFBF on November 12.
1922 - Seeing an opportunity in united
effort, Neill, Willis and others set about organizing county Farm Bureaus
in Mississippi. This removed county agents from the field of cooperative
purchasing and marketing, a position that had met some opposition from
local merchants. County agents actively supported organizational work
of county Farm Bureaus. A state federation, headed by C.L. Neill of Jones
County, was chartered on October 20.
In the early years, Farm Bureau operated largely as a cooperative, making
bulk purchases of seed and fertilizer for farmers and developing a cotton
marketing association, which was doomed for failure after a few years.
Neill believed the mistake made was failure to charge enough for the service
to farmers, therefore not generating the needed financial reserve to survive
adverse conditions brought on by the depression years.
1930s - Farm Bureau reorganized and
divided in 1936. Farm Bureau assumed the legislative burden of the farm
economy while Mississippi Federated Cooperative specialized in cooperative
purchasing and marketing as a separate and independent organization. Charlie
McNeill was selected to head the cooperative work. A period of growth
and success began.
Ed O'Neal of Alabama was president of the American Farm Bureau and became
a powerful, colorful influence on the national scene. He reputedly had
an inside track during the Roosevelt administration. Agriculture, through
a "farm block" held its own in the national economy.
1940s - Ransom Aldrich led the Mississippi
Farm Bureau as president. He soon was a leader of valuable national stature.
The federation expanded into new areas. During this period Farm Bureau
supported the introduction of hospital insurance; passage of the Hill-Burton
Hospital Act which brought a community hospital to nearly every section
of the state; birth of the Mississippi Chemical Corporation nitrogen manufacturing
plant at Yazoo City; and organization of the Southern Farm Bureau Life
and Casualty Insurance companies.
1950s - Boswell Stevens was elected
to the presidency of the MFBF upon the sudden death of Ransom Aldrich.
The state organization was reorganized and dues were raised by the counties
at rates from $5 to $10. Emphasis was put on strong, active county Farm
Bureaus, and membership growth resulted. A fire insurance company was
organized by Mississippi members to serve the state in 1952. County offices
were developed in increasing numbers, providing Farm Bureau with increased
strength, prestige and influence despite diminishing numbers of farmers.
The Mississippi Farm Bureau became one of the state's most influential
organizations in public affairs.
In 1954, it built and occupied a four story modern office building at
429 Mississippi Street, adjacent to the state capitol. Nationally, Farm
Bureau entered the role of the major organization serving as a watchdog
to preserve individual freedom and initiative. Issue after issue was defeated
by Farm Bureau at the grassroots which would have led agriculture down
the road toward more socialism.
1960s - Charles Shuman, successor of
Allan Kline at the helm of the national organization, led Farm Bureau
in a vigorous battle against the liberal offerings of the U.S. Congress.
In 1965 the MFBF organized a tire and battery sales program, and in 1966
broiler growers organized a marketing service. Before the end of the decade,
a marketing program for "spent hens" was begun.
On December 7, 1969, county Farm Bureau presidents and the federation's
Board of Directors traveled to Washington, D.C. to help celebrate the
Golden Anniversary of the AFBF.
1970s - At the AFBF annual meeting
in Houston in 1970, Charles Shuman was succeeded as president by Willian
Kuhfuss of Illinois.
Hugh M. Arant became the sixth president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau
Federation in November, 1972. Mississippi's membership growth gained in
momentum, and on May 2, 1974, the MFBF recorded its 100,000th member.
Growth Committee recommendations added new products through the SAFEMARK
program, which in 1975 was third place in the nation in sales volume.
Most county Farm Bureaus occupied their own office buildings and the county
insurance forces were expanded to better serve the growing membership.
The mid-1970's saw more attention given to farm marketing at both national
and state levels. This period was also one of declining farm prices and
continued increases of input costs. Cattlemen responded by reducing herds,
and as rowcrop farmers faced a near depression situation, unrest among
farmers saw the beginning of farmer protests and demonstrations throughout
Allen Grant of California, who became AFBF president in 1976, began to
speak strongly for less government regulation, and less hindrances to
the free market concept. He soon was well known nationally and internationally
as a forthright, common sense advocate for modern agriculture.
1980s - Membership in the MFBF continued
to rise and by the mid-80's was approaching 150,000 farm families. Bob
Delano of Virginia succeeded Allan Grant as president of the AFBF. Emphasis
was begun on foreign trade promotion to enhance foreign markets hurt by
the returning strength of the U.S. dollar and increased competition by
farmers in developing and already developed foreign nations. In 1983,
the MFBF moved into a new headquarters building on I-55 North, and county
Farm Bureaus began a computerized link with the state office. In 1984,
the first MFBF members began to participate in computer programming with
Drafting of the Food Security Act of 1985 (1985 Farm Bill) began in 1984
with nonfarm groups, especially environmental organizations, having a
great deal of impact. Dean Kleckner of Iowa succeeded Bob Delano as president
of the AFBF at the 67th annual convention held in Atlanta in 1986.
Don Waller, a cotton and tree farmer from Lafayette County, succeeded
long-time president Hugh Arant as president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau
Federation in December, 1988, at the 67th annual convention. Mr. Waller
began his term stressing greater communications with and service to the
membership, along with promoting more value added opportunities for agricultural
1990s - As Farm Bureau continued to
move into the last decade of the 20th century, its strength and influence
became more and more evident in the legislative arena, among government
officials and with leaders of the business community. Agricultural and
tax issues, along with a variety of issues affecting rural life, were
of primary focus in dealing with lawmakers, while the continued promotion
of agriculture as a critical economic force was directed at government
and business leaders.
Farm Bureau has become an active player with many groups as the economic
future of Mississippi is planned and developed. While Farm Bureau was
once viewed as an organization interested in only Farm issues, it's now
positioned as a leader in building a better Mississippi for all its citizens.
Farm Bureau was a highly visible force in legislative efforts during
1993. A "Boll Weevil Eradication" law, a "Lime" law
and an "Agricultural Theft" bill were all enacted with Farm
Bureau's efforts leading the way.
1996 - At the 75th Annual Meeting of the Federation's
membership David Waide, a row crop and cattle producer from Clay County,
was elected president of the organization. Delegates, members and other
participants at the December 7-9 meeting helped celebrate the seventy-fifth
anniversary of the Federation's formation.
2000s - Membership reached 214,752 family members.
2005 - Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf
Coast on August 29, wreaking havoc on the coastline and agriculture. Farm
Bureau set up a fund to bring relief to farmers who suffered losses. Over
one million dollars was distributed to needy individuals to help them
recover. Farm Bureau also set up diesel distribution points to help poultry
and dairy farmers get fuel to run generators until power could be restored.
2010 - At the 89th Annual Meeting of
the Mississippi Farm Bureau, Rankin County Dairy Farmer Randy Knight was
elected as the ninth president of the organization.
2011 - Farm Bureau scored one of its most important victories when a referendum was spearheaded by Farm Bureau to reform the practice of taking land by eminent domain. This put in place the law that restricts eminent domain takings to "public use" and prohibits its use for "economic development." The referendum was put on the November ballot and passed overwhelmingly.
2014 - Membership was 192,217 family members.