MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Cindy Hyde-Smith, the state’s leading advocate for Mississippi agriculture, touted the nation’s food supply as the safest and most affordable in the world when she spoke Tuesday [May 28] at the 2013 Boys State.

Hyde-Smith became the first woman to be elected Mississippi’s commissioner of agriculture and commerce in 2011 after serving 12 years in the Mississippi State Senate. After explaining the regulatory functions of her department to the 390 participants, she encouraged them to give credit for their food to farmers.

“When you sit down to a meal, first thank God and then thank the farmer,” she said.

Hyde-Smith said consumers can trust that their food has been inspected from the gate to the plate. Additionally, farmers are keenly aware of the importance of protecting the environment.

“You can trust that farmers are doing their jobs right. Right now, we have a lot of challenges in agriculture. By 2030, we will have to increase production by 50 percent to meet demand,” she said. “If all farming came to a halt this moment, we would only have enough food for 30 days.”

When asked for her advice to potential farmers, Hyde-Smith said she would encourage realistic assessments of their work ethics and budgeting skills.

“If you can’t work really hard and budget your money, then farming is not for you, but it is a great way of life,” she said. “Anything you do successfully is going to be hard.”

As a state senator, Hyde-Smith was an advocate for Mississippi farmers, serving as the chairman of the Agriculture Committee for eight years and as a member of numerous other committees.

Hyde-Smith said only 11 of the nation’s commissioners of agriculture are elected, and most of those are in the Southeast. Texas is the only other state to elect a woman to the position.

“The only limitations you have are the ones you put on yourself,” she said.

Following her speech at Mississippi State University, Boys State participant Andrew Smith of Monticello said he would like to follow in her political footsteps. After earning a degree in business administration and economics, he wants to enter politics with an emphasis on agriculture.

“I would like to lobby for legislation to help farmers, much like the commissioner did when she was a senator,” he said. “It is also important to help those who are not farmers to understand agricultural issues.”

Kyle Scott of Rosedale, another Boys State participant, said he wants to pursue an agricultural engineering degree and look for ways to help the environment.

“My grandfather works on a farm, and I can tell how much he enjoys what he does. It looks very interesting,” Scott said.