Gipson highlights successes, challenges in agriculture and trade

Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson addressed state economic leaders at the Mississippi Hobnob hosted by the Mississippi Economic Council. Commissioner Gipson began his address by singing the first verse of “A County Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams, Jr. He then highlighted the successes and challenges of agriculture and commerce, while offering practical solutions for the future.

Recognizing the importance of agriculture in Mississippi, Commissioner Gipson said, “The backbone of our economy is agriculture, and farmers have suffered, but they continue to plant and grow the next crop. We must sincerely thank our farmers. Thanks to them, we will survive,” Gipson said.

Gipson described the successes of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC) over the past year. In addition, he detailed steps taken to address two specific issues that have resulted in positive solutions – a new water well system on the State Fairgrounds to ensure critical water needs on the property are continuously met and the multi-agency law enforcement cooperation that resulted in a safe Mississippi State Fair. Highlighted MDAC successes included:

  • The Mississippi State Fairgrounds hosted a record-breaking Dixie National Livestock Show and Rodeo with record ticket sales and the highest-grossing Junior Champion sale.
  • The new 750-foot deepwater shaft system on the Mississippi State Fairgrounds was completed in February.
  • The Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum, recently named Small Festival of the Year by the Mississippi Tourism Association for its annual Pickle Fest, has successfully resumed hosting in-person excursions.
  • The first year of the Ag Youth Council, MDAC’s youth leadership program, has been successfully implemented.
  • Meat processing capacity has increased with the opening of new local meat processing facilities in the state.
  • MDAC held its first international trade training in conjunction with the Southern US Trade Association.
  • MDAC hosted its first Mississippi lumber inbound trade mission with buyers from five countries participating. The trade mission resulted in lumber sales of $7 million during the week of the event, with future sales expected in the millions.
  • Several new farmers’ markets have opened with the help of MDAC, prompted by renewed interest in the farmers’ market.
  • Mississippi grain was successfully shipped by a new grain elevator to the delta. More than 8 million bushels of grain were shipped by rail while traffic on the Mississippi River was slowed or stopped.
  • The Mississippi State Fairgrounds held a successful and safe state fair with attendance reaching near pre-pandemic levels.

Commissioner Gipson addressed the significant but unique challenges affecting agriculture and trade, including labor shortages, record inflation, international conflicts, strike threats, the exhaustion of energy and the historically low water levels of the Mississippi River, while highlighting the resilience of American farmers.

“In 2022, farmers endured, as consumers endured, the highest prices for everything from animal feed to seed and fertilizer. It cost twice as much to get a harvest, so thank our farmers when you see them. Agriculture allows us to survive,” Gipson said.

Looking ahead, Gipson noted that steps can be taken to mitigate the severe supply chain challenges we face. He shared five practical solutions: first, we need to strengthen and support our existing local food supply chains, starting with buying local food from local farmers; second, starting now, we must teach future generations the need to grow up and join the labor market; third, we must intentionally nurture our next generation of farmers; fourth, as a state, we need to develop a strategic shipping and transportation plan using our abundance of transportation resources; and fifth, we must enact energy, land use, labor, and trade policies from the local to the federal level that will support agriculture and trade, not fight them.

“Whether it’s city planners in Clinton, Mississippi, or policy makers in Washington, DC, everyone needs to understand that agriculture is not the enemy. Agriculture is our lifeblood. Agriculture is our way of surviving, and Mississippi will survive and thrive as we face the challenges ahead,” Gipson said.

Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson addressed the state’s economic leaders and highlighted successes and challenges in agriculture and commerce, while offering practical solutions for the future . (Courtesy picture)

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