June 8, 2009 Rotogram

PRESIDENT GRANT COMES TO STATE

John Marszalek, MSU history professor emeritus, will detail Mississippi State’s coup in becoming the repository of Ulysses Grant’s presidential papers.

NEXT WEEK – CREATE FOUNDATION

Mike Clayborne, president and CEO of the Tupelo-based CREATE Foundation, will discuss  the Foundation’s current activities in Starkville and other counties and communities throughout Northeast Mississippi.

LAST WEEK

Invocation and Pledge: Jim Ormon
Attendance: Folks sometimes say “the stars weren’t aligned right,” but this week the editor’s and the secretary’s schedules weren’t in alignment. We’ll have meeting statistics and guest list next week.
Makeups: Chester McKee in Cold Creek Colorado; Carey Hardin online; and, J.C. Patton in West Point.
Meeting note: Board member Tommy Prentice subbed for Vice President Martha Wells who subbed for President Chip Templeton who was at a Ragtime Jazz Festival in Missouri.
New member: Andy Hughes was welcomed to his first meeting as a member of our Club. He is a veteran of 4 other Rotary Clubs.
Rotary Minute: Debra Hicks gave a “Rotary 30 Seconds” promoting RI’s new YouTube channel at:  http://www.youtube.com/rotaryinternational

MISSISSIPPI AGRICULTURE AND COMMERCE

Lester Spell, DVM, in his fourth term as Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, spoke of his department and Mississippi’s largest business — agriculture and forestry earn about $6.4 billion annually in cash receipts.
Noting Spell’s May 29 marriage,
Gary Chism said, “He is one  committed speaker.”
The first Republican ag commissioner in Mississippi history is noted for streamlining a department that was $1.2 million in the hole when he took office. The unit now functions at 20 percent greater efficiency with 33 percent fewer employees than a decade-and-a-half ago.
The MSU alumnus noted that the MDAC could not do as well without its partnership with the university through the Extension Service and other departments. The campus also plays host to the Ag and Commerce Department’s Bureau of Plant Industries.
Focusing on local agriculture, Spell noted that Oktibbeha County comprises 40 percent woodlands and 25 percent croplands with a good bit of pasture in addition. The Mississippi Horse Park, a city, county and university partnership, has brought in 17,000 people from 30 states for a $2.4 million economic impact since the beginning of 2009.
Regulatory inspections are a major portion of the MDAC mandate. Its responsibilities include food quality and price verification in grocery stores, country of origin labeling, weights and measures, petroleum laws and pesticide applicator licensing. Among other duties, each year, the department checks 2,400 grocery stores and conducts 78,000 gas pump tests. All of the state’s commercial scales fall under its purview.
Spell advised the audience to be on the lookout for grocery store inspection designations of failed, inspected or passed posted at the front door for quality assurance.
“Now, I don’t have anything to do with the price of gas,” he said. “But, I can help you if you think you’ve been shortchanged on volume. Always keep your receipts as proof.”
The MDAC Farm Theft Division conducts twice the national average number of farm crime investigations. Timber, farm equipment and livestock often are theft targets.
The Mississippi Coliseum and State Fairgrounds are managed by the MDAC. As a special-funds agency, “not one nickel of appropriated money” is spent for the facility.
The “Make Mine Mississippi” labeling program is available to more than 1,000 manufacturers whose products have more than 50 percent of their value added in state.
“I tell all the other state officials that I have more fun than any of y’all,” Spell said. “I get to travel every county of the state, and I get to chair the State Fair.”

Mississippi Agriculture’s Economic Impact

  • $26 billion value-added
  • 1 in 4 jobs related
  • 42,000 farms
  • 11 million acres farmland
  • 18 million acres forest

Mississippi’s Top Agricultural Commodities           
(billions)

  • Poultry             $2.343
  • Forestry             1.163
  • Soybeans             .604
  • Corn                    .352
  • Catfish                 .258

Productive Soil — A Rare Commodity

Our guest speaker Dr. Lester Spell asked us to envision the planet Earth as an apple. First, slice off 3 quarters to account for water. The remaining 25 percent represents dry land. Half of that land is desert, polar or mountainous regions too hot, too cold or too high to be productive. Forty percent of the remaining eighth is too rocky, steep, shallow, poor or wet to support food production. Cut that away and you are left with about a tenth of the apple. Peel the skin from the tiny remaining sliver and you get the approximately 3 percent of the Earth that is the soil we depend on for the world’s food supply.

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