Andy Gipson, a Republican state lawmaker from Braxton, accepts Gov. Phil Bryant’s invitation to serve as Mississippi’s new Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner.

On Wednesday, Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, bid farewell to his colleagues in the Mississippi House of Representatives — but at the time he couldn’t admit that he would be yielding the floor for good.

Everything made sense one day later when Gov. Phil Bryant announced Gipson as the next state Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, succeeding Cindy Hyde-Smith who will soon head to Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Senate.

Gipson, 41, said his family did not have to pray long on the decision to accept Bryant’s offer, joking that the opportunity is “a bullet that fit our gun.”

One of the most vocal social conservatives in state government, Gipson has made a name for himself championing such issues as promoting gun rights, limiting abortion and cracking down on illegal immigration.

Andy Gipson, a Republican state lawmaker from Braxton, holds ones of his daughters and speaks with well-wishers in Jackson after the announcement that he would take the reins as state Agriculture Commissioner.

“Whether we’re rural, whether we’re urban, we all need it,” he said. “As a matter of fact, civilization exists because of agriculture. Agriculture unites us because it provides all the basic human needs of food — you have to have it to live — of fiber — you’ve got to have some clothes to wear — and of shelter, and we know something about timber right here in the great state of Mississippi,” Gipson said Thursday afternoon at the Ag Museum at a press conference announcing his new role.

Gipson will begin officially on Monday, when he plans to meet with the staff of the Agriculture Commission and help select a new executive director for the State Fairgrounds. Gipson will also oversee a $55 million renovation of the Trademart and said he plans to expand agritourism and promote livestock shows and farmers’ markets.

He also wants to grow the Mississippi State Fair and go on an agriculture listening tour of the state to talk to farmers.

Gispon is an attorney with Jones Walker, a law firm in Jackson, where he specializes in securities, banking, communications and insurance. Gipson has served in the House since 2008 representing District 77, which includes parts of Simpson and Rankin counties. That year, he beat Democratic challenger Dale Berry 58 percent to Berry’s 40 percent.

Democrats still controlled the House at the time, but Gipson was given two vice-chairmanships — Investigative State Offices and Poverty.

In 2017, Gipson made national headlines for killing a bill that would have made domestic violence grounds for divorce in Mississippi. He later worked to rework wording in the state code to provide that protection.  

Gipson and his wife, Leslie, raise cattle and chickens on their Braxton farm and own a coffee shop in D’lo. They have four children, two boys and two girls.

He also said he plans to work closely with the state’s congressional delegations as well as the Trump Administration, which Gipson credited for rolling back “burdensome” regulations on the agriculture industry.

He added that he wants Mississippians to reconnect to life on the farm.

“People in our society have come to forget that milk in a grocery store didn’t come from the grocery store. It didn’t come in a plastic jug, young people, it came from a milk cow on a farm somewhere. Beans in a can didn’t come from a factory, it came from the dirt in the form of a vine or bush somewhere,” Gipson said.

Gov. Bryant said he would announce in coming weeks the dates for a special election to fill the House District 77 seat Gipson is vacating.

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Ryan L. Nave, a native of University City, Mo., served as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief from May 2018 until April 2020. Ryan began his career with Mississippi Today February 2016 as an original member of the editorial team. He became news editor August 2016. Ryan has a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked for Illinois Times and served as news editor for the Jackson Free Press.