We hear a lot of political talk about economic development in Mississippi. The fact is, despite all the billions we taxpayers continue to put out, Mississippi was dead last in the Southeastern United States in economic growth over the last three years. Mississippi’s economy grew only 1.0% last year, behind our neighboring states of Louisiana, Tennessee and Alabama. We ranked 44th in the nation for economic growth. It is time to broaden our approach.
Where should we start? Look beneath your feet. God has blessed Mississippi with fine soil, abundant water, long growing seasons, and industrious, hardworking entrepreneurs and workers. Yet we import 90% of what we eat in Mississippi from outside the state. $6.5 Billion dollars of hard-earned Mississippian’s money goes out of the state—much of it out of the country—to pay for food produced somewhere else. We need those dollars turning over in our own communities, and it starts with the simple act of neighbors supporting neighbors.
We must develop local and regional food systems throughout Mississippi to keep those food dollars here at home. Safe, fresh, local and abundant food can be an important part of a vigorously growing economy for our state. How do we do it? Well, for starters we get government red tape out of the way and let growers control what they grow, how they grow it, and how they sell it. State government should regulate less and advocate much more for Mississippi-produced food. Further, we must educate the public about the tremendous health and wellness benefits of eating fresh, locally grown food. Food is medicine, and local food systems conserve our natural resources and keep our environment clean.
I am running for Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce to serve as your voice for Homegrown Food in Mississippi. Think of me as the Commissioner of Food. Let us grow a healthier and wealthier Mississippi together as we make our food Safe, Local and Abundant.
Rickey L. Cole