Small Farmers want less strict rules in Mississippi

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Small Farmers want less strict rules in Mississippi
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Ben Simmons, owner of Nature's Gourmet Farm
MPB News

Some small farmers in Mississippi want to sell their chickens to restaurants and grocery stores. But as MPB's Ashley Norwood reports, state law has its limits.

Several small farmers and local chefs are asking the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce to revise regulations they say are making it difficult to get products from the farm to the table. The United States Department of Agriculture allows small farmers to produce up to 20,000 chickens a year without the same inspection process as larger farms. But Mississippi law limits small poultry farmers in the amount of chickens they can produce and denies their access to sell directly to grocery stores.

Ben Simmons of Nature's Gourmet Farm in Petal says the law in Mississippi is confusing and restrictive.

"Our small farms are restricted to only 1,000 chickens per year that we can grow and sell, process on our farms. They limit how we can transport them and also we cannot sell directly into retail," said Simmons.

Chef Nick Wallace says he wants his customers to eat more from Mississippi farms.

"You have to work really hard to get local foods. I mean it's really tough," said Wallace.

Republican Senator Angela Hill of Marion County is on the Agriculture Committee. She says she hopes Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson will make the call in favor of the small farmers and chefs.

"Um that's the worst thing we could be doing is hindering our people who farm more naturally from getting their products to market and that's what we have been doing in the state of Mississippi. If it's okay for the USDA and it's okay for 40 other states it ought to be okay for Mississippi,' said Hill.

Commissioner Gipson says he will make a decision after he hears from all sides. Ashley Norwood, MPB News.