Jackson, Miss., and Shanghai, China, have one thing in common: They’re both places where Cindy Hyde-Smith negotiates agricultural regulations. As Mississippi’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, she scrutinizes regulations -- from catfish inspection to poultry export bans -- to advocate for farmers and ensure the quality of the food they produce.
A beef cattle producer, Hyde-Smith counts herself among the 2 percent of Americans who grow food for everyone else. While she may be focused on helping farmers, she likes to point out that those regulations impact everyone. “Most people eat every day,” she says. “When they say, ‘Agriculture is just not part of my life,’ I say, ‘You’re the only person I know that doesn’t eat.’”
Hyde-Smith’s most memorable moment in public service came as a state senator. She championed a bill authorizing schools of the blind to purchase large print and braille textbooks earlier, so that the students would get them as school starts rather than two months in. “I got all these cards and letters from parents all over the state saying, ‘Thank you for helping my child who cannot see,’” she says. “That’s one that will get stuck in my heart forever.”