Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson is wrapping up his statewide 2018 Genuine MS Summer Listening Tour. Commissioner Gipson began the tour soon after taking office and said that it was a top priority of his to visit farms in all regions across the state. By doing so, Gipson said he has been able to receive personal feedback from the farmers on their issues, challenges, and opportunities.
While it initially began as a tour comprised of 34 stops, it quickly evolved into a tour with visits in over 60 counties statewide. Gipson visited farms, both large and small, that grow some of Mississippi’s top commodities such as poultry, timber, cotton, soybeans, corn, beef cattle, dairy, catfish, peanuts, and blueberries. In addition, he visited farms with niche crops such as Mississippi-grown tea, as well as agritourism operations.
“I appreciate all of those who welcomed me onto their farms and into their shops to let me know what is on their minds,” said Commissioner Gipson. “Our farmers and ranchers face numerous challenges, many of which they can’t control. This tour has allowed me to hear about these critical issues and their impacts directly from those that are affected every day.”
Commissioner Gipson listened as farmers voiced concerns on topics ranging from roads and bridges to trade, workforce availability and burdensome regulations. He has taken the information gleaned from the tour and is working on behalf of Mississippi farmers and ranchers to address these concerns.
“The need for roads and bridges in our rural areas is critical, and I was able to help communicate just how crucial the condition of infrastructure like this can be to a farmer’s bottom line to our legislators,” Gipson said. “I want to thank Governor Phil Bryant and the Mississippi Legislature for taking quick action in addressing our rural state, county, and municipal roads and bridges to help get commodities to the market.”
Currently, Gipson and his staff at the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce are discussing agency goals and devising plans to move Mississippi agriculture forward.
“I heard a tremendous number of ideas and concerns from our farmers, ranchers, and landowners while on the road. Although the Department can’t realistically address every issue, we are putting together a strategic plan of action to address as many as we can,” said Gipson.
Two recently announced initiatives were developed from ideas expressed during the tour. The Genuine MS International Agricultural Trade Initiative is being developed to create additional foreign market opportunities for producers and agribusinesses and increase investment in Mississippi. Gipson added that they are working on creating an agriculture internship program for the agency are want to design it with the goal of promoting apprenticeships for Mississippi youth in agricultural related work which he hopes will one day become a state-wide program.
“The greatest investment we can make for Mississippi agriculture is in our young people, and we are making this our top priority,” said Gipson.
Gipson added that they are working with their 2018 intern, Dakota Murphree to help with the creation of the intern program.
“If it’s anything like what I have experienced, I can honestly tell you that anyone is going to get the resources and the skills that they are going to need to have a better chance at a life-long career in agriculture,” Murphree said.