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Ag Commissioner Candidates Square Off

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 12 Sep 2011 04:40pm | comments
Joel Gill.

The two major-party candidates for Mississippi agriculture commissioner are making their case for votes ahead of the November 8th general election. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that the candidates are seeking to replace a four-term commissioner.

The current Agriculture commissioner, Lester Spell, is deciding to step down rather than run for a fifth term as commissioner.

Republican State Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Brookhaven and Democratic Pickens Mayor Joel Gill are running to replace him.

The two candidates spoke Monday at a luncheon sponsored by Mississippi State University's Stennis Institute of Government agreed on a number of issues, such as supporting eminent domain and country-of-origin labeling for products such as catfish and beef but they also differed on issues such as the role of biofuels.

"Agriculture needs a place at the table for alternative fuels. And as we all know, ethanol will need to stand on its own one day because that is part of the corn dedication right now. There are so many acres of corn dedicated to ethonal and that is what we are feeding out animals. But there are a lot of things out there," Hyde-Smith said.

"I don't think we need to be using food for our fuel," Gill explained.

The two candidates also differed on the role that bio-engineered crops should play in Mississippi with Mayor Gill arguing that the real world application has created new problems.

"If you want to use them, that is fine. But what is happening in the real world, is you have these Round-Up ready crops and you are also getting roundup ready weeds, that are becoming super weeds," Gill said.

Senator Hyde-Smith pointed out the improved crop yields from the increased use of bio-engineered plants.

"In my life time, I have seen some yields increase 300-400% in certain crops and it is because of a lot of genetically modified groups. And as long as it is approved by the FDA and information is made available by the USDA, that is a farmer's choice," Hyde-Smith said.

There is a third party candidate on the ballot, the Reform Party's Cathy Toole is also in the agriculture race.

The general election is on November 8th.



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