McRae: Protecting Our Food Security

By Treasurer David McRae

This month, the nation celebrated National Agriculture Day, a time set aside to commemorate those who grow the food that feeds and fuels our families. Of course, in Mississippi, we understand that agriculture does a lot more than that.

Beyond sustaining our communities, Mississippi producers allow us to wield soft power among our foreign allies. In other words, the agriculture industry serves just as big of a role in America’s national security, as it does our food security.

Here in Mississippi, agriculture – a $9.72 billion industry that employs more than 15 percent of the state’s workforce – is also a driver of our economy. When farmers and ranchers prosper, our communities prosper. It’s as simple as that.

But this critical industry is under significant pressure right now by the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) movement. As I’ve written about before, ESG is an investment strategy that prioritizes climate policy and social justice above sound financial decisions – and the most reverent ESG devotees have their sights set on agriculture.

ESG advocates, most of whom work out of huge financial centers like New York City, blame rural America for climate woes. Many want ag producers to change their practices so as to accommodate the investors’ political wishes rather than taking the steps necessary to feed, clothe, and fuel the world. How do they do that? Well, on a massive scale, they can shift investments away from vehicle manufacturers that produce the heavy-duty trucks needed for agriculture. They can threaten large-scale cattle, hog, and poultry operations. They can wield political power to target Mississippi timber or divert financing from the agribusinesses that are helping farmers produce more food for cheaper. The list could go on.

Concerningly, the Biden administration has empowered these investors, peeling back a Trump-era policy that required 401(k) managers to prioritize retirement returns over social policies. In March, Congress (both the House and Senate) acted in a bipartisan manner to reinstate President Trump’s protections. President Biden, however, used his first veto to reject their legislation.

The supply chain issues in recent years have showed the world just how vulnerable our food supply truly is. Now is not the time to pull the rug from under this critical industry.

As Mississippi’s chief financial officer, I am committed to protecting our state’s farmers and ranchers, food supply, and economy. To all our producers, thank you for all you do to feed, fuel, and secure our nation.