I grew up in the small, rural Mississippi town of Yazoo City. I cherish the rural way of life, and Mississippi is blessed with fertile lands, rich bodies of water, and dedicated farmers. As our nation’s 25th secretary of agriculture, I used my experience and knowledge working and living in Mississippi’s rural communities to negotiate trade deals and take on entrenched interests.

My father was a student of noted professor George Washington Carver at Tuskegee Institute, and dedicated his life to uplifting our rural communities. After he graduated college, he served as a U.S. Department of Agriculture county agent in Crittenden County, Arkansas, assigned to serving that state’s Black farmers. He helped them to secure farm loans, increase productivity and locate new markets. Like my father, I stand with Mississippi’s farmers and I’ve dedicated my life to expanding opportunities in our rural and agricultural communities.

In Mississippi, agriculture is the largest part of our economy and it is incredibly diverse. Catfish, poultry, timber, beef, soy, corn — you name it, our farmers probably have it. But over the last several years, farmers have been put through the wringer — battling biblical-level flooding, devastating tornadoes, punitive tariffs, and most recently backups in our food supply chain brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have the experience of having personally negotiated two multilateral trade treaties that greatly expanded market opportunities for our nation’s farmers. They deserve a proven advocate for them in the U.S. Senate — not someone engaged in hyper-partisan political gamesmanship. I will work with any president and any administration to improve opportunities for Mississippi’s farmers and make sure those opportunities directly benefit them.

In addition to supporting our farmers, I’m passionate about building a strong rural economy. During my time representing the Delta and our nation’s farmers, I helped to design the Empowerment Zone program and I led the creation of the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Act, both of which helped advanced business, education and development in our rural communities. For almost two decades, I have served on the board of a large nonprofit organization dedicated to improving lives in the rural Mid-South by providing low-interest loans to families who want to buy their first home or start a business, helping to build rural hospitals and clinics, and opening grocery stores where they are needed most. I am focused on helping low-income Mississippians build assets, financial capacity and in ultimately achieving self-sufficiency.

I believe America cannot prosper if rural America is left behind. That’s why, as Secretary of Agriculture, I launched a project to dramatically expand the number of homes in our country with running water, which resulted in more than $3 billion invested in water programs by engaging local communities to develop safe drinking water projects.

Quality, affordable health care and access to high-speed internet are desperately needed across the rural areas of our state, that’s why my first two priorities in office will be to shore up our rural hospitals and health clinics by expanding Medicaid and ensuring quality broadband access to every Mississippian. As your senator, I will continue to push for innovative solutions that support investment and development in our rural communities.