Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., is a cattle farmer by trade, and she is hoping that playing up her agricultural background in a rural state will pay off in next week’s special election runoff.
But in her elected roles, it was the other way around, as she used her political offices — first state senator, then state agriculture commissioner and now as U.S. senator — to boost her ag interests and supporters in the industry, according to a review of her financial disclosures and the legislative record.
Since Hyde-Smith was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Phil Bryant in March, she has been trying to build a coalition of conservatives in hopes of first winning President Donald Trump’s endorsement and then the election to serve out the remainder of former Sen. Thad Cochran’s term.
Hyde-Smith and her husband, Mike, own a cattle farm in Brookhaven, Miss., worth between $600,000 and $1.25 million, according to her financial disclosure, and are partners in Lincoln County Livestock, a cattle auctioneer.
As a state senator in 2005, Hyde-Smith sponsored a bill for the state to create an agency to promote and research Mississippi beef and later sponsored bills to revise laws on cattle theft and livestock auctions.
Hyde-Smith arrived in Washington in the spring and wasted little time pushing legislation backed by special interests representing the cattle-farming industry.
In June, Hyde-Smith signed on to Sen. Ben Sasse’s bill to allow livestock drivers to be on the road for longer hours, which the American Farm Bureau Federation applauded for fixing “hours of service regulations and the electronic logging device mandate.” National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Kevin Kester praised the bill, as the limits on cattle drivers posed “big challenges for our industry and can often jeopardize the health and wellbeing of livestock,” according to the Western Livestock Journal.
The American Trucking Associations cautioned the changes would be dangerous for drivers.
“It needlessly and recklessly jeopardizes the safety of people who travel our highways,” Bill Sullivan, the group’s executive vice president of advocacy, said in a statement. “We should not prioritize livestock over people’s lives, and ATA urges Congress to reject this misguided legislation.”
Within weeks of signing on as a co-sponsor, Hyde-Smith received $17,000 from livestock-related political action committees, including $10,000 from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
Hyde-Smith will be in a runoff election against former Rep. Mike Espy, a Democrat and former agriculture secretary, on Nov. 27 since no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote.
Hyde-Smith finished first with 41.5 percent of the vote, followed by Espy with 40.6 percent and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Republican, who received 16.5 percent.