Agriculture has long been and remains the dominant force in Mississippi’s economy, accounting for almost eight billion dollars annually and directly or indirectly employing about 29 percent of the state’s workforce. Agriculture constitutes the state’s single-largest industry.
To promote and regulate the business of agriculture, the Mississippi legislature created the Department of Agriculture and Commerce in 1906. Every four years Mississippi voters choose a commissioner of agriculture and commerce, one of eight statewide elected officials. The commissioner’s duties range from food and sanitation inspection to the certification of gasoline pumps. He or she is responsible for promoting Mississippi’s agricultural products to expand their share of the retail market as well as for preventing and investigating agriculture and livestock theft. One of the commissioner’s most visible roles is as manager of the Central Farmers Market and the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson; the latter receives approximately 130,000 visitors annually.
In the more than a century since the position’s creation, only seven people have served as commissioner of agriculture and commerce: Henry Edward Blakeslee (1906–16), Peter Parley Garner (1916–28), J. C. Holton (1928–40), Silas Edward Corley (1940–68), Jim Buck Ross (1968–96), Lester Spell Jr. (1996–2012), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (2012–present).
- Dana B. Brammer and John W. Winkle, eds., A Contemporary Analysis of Mississippi’s Constitutional Government: Proceedings of a Forum, May 2–3, 1986 (1986)
- Dale Krane and Stephen D. Shaffer, Mississippi Government and Politics: Modernizers versus Traditionalists (1992)
- Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, 2010 Annual Report (2011)
- Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce website, www.mdac.ms.gov; Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (2009)
- Joseph Parker, Politics in Mississippi (1993)