Debate sponsor Farm Bureau’s deep relationship with Hyde-Smith includes board donations, awards

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for AmericaSen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) speaks to supporters during a Farmers for Cindy Hyde-Smith event at Wade Inc. in Greenwood Friday, September 7, 2018.
The sponsors of the only debate of this year’s Mississippi Senate campaigns has a long history of supporting Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, including through campaign donations from board members.
On Oct. 17, five board members of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, which organized tonight’s debate between Hyde-Smith and Mike Espy, a Democrat, made contributions to Hyde-Smith’s election campaign.
That day, Mississippi Farm Bureau President Mike McCormick gave Hyde-Smith $500, and four other board members have given a total of $4,000 to Hyde-Smith since July, records show.
None of the organization’s 26 current board members – comprised of 25 white men and one white woman – have given to Hyde-Smith’s Democratic challenger Mike Espy during this cycle.
“These members are five of a board of 26 farmers and ranchers engaged in many activities, and (Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation) will not speak for these board members and their individual political interests or what motivated them to contribute to any campaign,” said Jon Kalahar, communications director for Farm Bureau. “There was no MFBF sanctioned or sponsored event that day or at any other time.”
One of the most powerful lobbies in Mississippi government, the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation represents more than 193,000 farmers in all 82 counties. On its website, it describes itself as “a voluntary, non-governmental, non-partisan organization seeking solutions to problems affecting the lives of farm families, both socially and economically.”
Other board members who donated to Hyde-Smith on October 17 include Noble Guedon ($1,000), Mike Ferguson ($500), Donald Gant ($500) and Ted Kendall IV ($1,000). Kendall also gave $1,000 to Hyde-Smith on June 6. Kalahar said there was no Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation event on that day.
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