Spell took over the department from the legendary Jim Buck Ross, who created much of that political fiefdom in his 28 years in office. The department grew at Jim Buck’s whim, no matter how questionable the program. He had employees who no one knew what they did, including the employees themselves. They just worked for Jim Buck.
Spell changed that culture. When he took over, he undertook reorganization and reduced the department by about a third.
The problem is the remaining two-thirds. The department remains an expensive arm of state government that is searching for a purpose in today’s new realities. It could go away with little impact on services to Mississippians.
Worse, there are several other related agencies that operate independently. Gov. Haley Barbour suggested putting the Forestry Commission, the Soil and Water Conservation Commission, Board of Animal Health, the Fair Commission and Board of Registered Foresters, the Egg Marketing Board and Board of Veterinary Medicine under Agriculture.
Seems logical and efficient, right? The proposals were dismissed as ag groups lined up against change.