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 Mississippi Ag department moves to help farmers and provide more local farm-to-table options

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Commissioner of Commerce Andy Gipson signed an emergency rule increasing the number of owners an animal may have when utilizing custom slaughter May 7. (Photo courtesy MDAC)

The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce is taking steps to strengthen the state’s food supply chain and provide more farm-to-table options in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The country’s food supply chain continues to function in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson in a statement. “However, labor issues in other states, coupled with shifting demands as restaurants and schools have closed, have strained the supply chain.

“In Mississippi, our food supply is abundant, plentiful and safe thanks to our hardworking farmers. It is imperative that we take steps that will provide new market opportunities for our farmers, while simultaneously providing consumers with avenues to purchase direct from farmers. These steps are all part of keeping our food supply diverse and secure.”

Gipson signed an emergency rule Thursday increasing the number of owners an animal may have when utilizing custom slaughter. The 120-day emergency rule will expire; however, the department will file a regular rule change to make it permanent.

“This action to remove the limit of four owners will provide additional options for both farmers and consumers,” Gipson said.

To further expand farm-to-table efforts, MDAC launched the Mississippi Farm Marketplace website, an online marketing portal that gives farmers a place to list commodities they have for sale, while providing consumers a location to easily source local products. A variety of commodities are listed including produce, meats, dairy products, honey, live animals for custom slaughter, eggs, aquaculture, seafood and horticulture products. In addition, the portal contains a listing of available on-farm jobs.

“I encourage farmers and ranchers that have crops and other commodities that they need to sell to utilize the Mississippi Farm Marketplace. This is a valuable tool to connect with consumers that are looking to buy direct from growers,” Gipson said. “And, I also want to encourage all Mississippians to go to the website to find local products. This is a great resource to source local products for food banks, restaurants, schools, retailers, wholesalers and anyone else that is looking to buy local.”

Commissioner Gipson discussed the need to expand meat processing capacity in the state as some producers are unable to get meat processed because many processing facilities are at capacity. He invited existing meat processors to submit applications to the Mississippi Land, Water, and Timber Resources Program to upgrade their facilities to federally inspected status or expand their facilities for additional processing capacity.

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