For the first time since 1996, David Waide is not the president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.
At their annual meeting last week, Farm Bureau members elected Rankin County dairy farmer Randy Knight, 48, to succeed Waide, who did not seek another two-year term. In his new positions, Knight’s challenges are many.
“The 2012 Farm Bill, animal welfare and our nation’s dwindling farm numbers are just a few of the many challenges that concern our farming community,” Knight said in a press release. “I am going to emphasize our Ag in the Classroom Program. We must reach our children at an early age with agriculture’s story. I will strengthen our Young Farmers and Ranchers program because today’s young adults are tomorrow’s agricultural leaders. I will continue to support our ag media campaign because it has proven to be an effective means of educating consumers about agriculture.”
Multiple attempts to secure Knight for an interview last week were unsuccessful.
Waide said in an interview last week that he will devote most of his time post-presidency to his cattle and row-crop farm in West Point.
“You can overstay your welcome at a place, and I thought it was a good time for me to leave,” he said. “I needed to leave because of personal reasons with my wife’s family. It all worked out well, and I’m really pleased that Mr. Knight was elected. He’ll be a real asset to the members. It feels good to me to know that the transition will be seamless and the Farm Bureau will have good leadership and we’ll see the
organization continue to do well.”
Timing was also an issue. Lawmakers face re-election next year, and Waide thought a new president would need time to develop relationships with them before they fully engaged in their campaigns.
“That way he would have at least a year to get to know those people in the Legislature he needs to know. I just didn’t think he needed to be elected next year and then have to worry about the Legislature coming in a few weeks later, and he’s not gotten to introduce himself to the new powers that will be in office.
“It’s a matter of building credibility,” Waide continued. “The Farm Bureau president carries a lot of power. The real truth is, the individual that sits in this seat has to build the integrity and character that people respect and trust. He couldn’t do that in 18 or 20 days. He needed at least a year to be able to do that. We’ve also got a 2012 farm bill. He needs some time to build credibility and to make key votes and work with the other presidents of Farm Bureau to get the very best farm bill that we can get.
“(Knight) has been a vice president for four years, and he’s done a good job on our insurance boards. He’s really interested in all phases of agriculture, even though he’s a dairy and stocker calf farmer. He has the character and integrity that the organization needs to prosper and grow. He’ll have the respect from the people the office dictate that he has. I believe in the Farm Bureau. I believe it’s the only entity that represents rural Mississippi. The new president needed to be in office before the legislative elections and the statewide elections.
“As much as I wanted to serve two more years, I couldn’t make myself be selfish and stay two more years and dump all that in his lap. I just thought it was the best thing for the organization overall. These hours are so grueling. I work 18-20 hours every day, and I was not capable of reducing my schedule and at the same time feel like I could get the job done.”
Waide said he and Knight have worked out a deal when it comes to Waide lending him a hand or any sort of advice.
“He and I have talked, and the understanding we have is I will not call him and offer him any advice,” Waide said. “I will never criticize anything he does. I will always be available if he wants to pick up the phone and ask me anything. If anybody ever tells him I said something negative about him he can call them a liar to their face, because he’ll never hear me utter a negative word about him or about the organization.”
Said Knight in Farm Bureau’s press release: “I am optimistic about the future of farming, but we cannot rest,” said Knight. “We must continue to work together, with an open line of communication between county leaders, state officers and MFBF staff, to ensure that our organization remains strong, representing the interests of all Mississippi farmers for many years to come.”
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