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Debate unlikely to happen before Mississippi’s agriculture commissioner race

Incumbent Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson (left) and Democratic challenger Robert Bradford (right)

Coming off reports that gubernatorial candidates Tate Reeves and Brandon Presley have agreed to debate prior to Mississippi’s Nov. 7 general election, the challenging candidate in another statewide race is hoping to also take the debate stage as voters prepare to hit the polls.

Robert Bradford, the Democratic nominee for commissioner of agriculture and commerce, requested that incumbent Republican Andy Gipson agree to a televised debate during SuperTalk Laurel’s Jones County Political Rally last Tuesday.

During his speech, the fourth-generation farmer tried to convince south Mississippians why they should vote for him instead of Gipson, a former legislator who has held the position since 2018.

“Why do we have attorneys running our agriculture? Attorneys belong in the courtroom,” Bradford told the crowd at the Sanderson Farms Multipurpose Facility. “You check my record. There’s no politics in agriculture. You could ask a farmer today when he plants his crops, would he rather have a Republican or Democrat? I can tell you that he doesn’t want his crops to be conservative. He wanted them to produce.”

Continuing to attack Gipson’s résumé, Bradford vowed to decrease food insecurity, put a stop to foreign countries buying Mississippi farmland, and lower produce prices at both grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

“Agriculture is the number one industry we’ve got in this state, but we’ve got high poverty, we’ve got famine, we’ve got people starving, and we’ve got farms being taken over,” Bradford continued. “I know it’s hard when y’all go to these grocery stores and look at the apples and oranges and have to pay $12 for a bag. It’s cheaper to just buy the plant, watch it grow for two or three years, and get your plants off it. We’ve got to stop that.”

While Bradford claimed that his campaign has already challenged Gipson to multiple debates and the incumbent was “not interested,” Gipson told SuperTalk Mississippi News differently on Friday afternoon. Gipson was not present at the rally Bradford spoke at due to scheduling conflicts.

“I have not seen a request for a debate from my opponent,” Gipson said. “A non-debate forum was mentioned a while back as a possibility by a third party, but a debate has never been requested of me.”

Gipson is running on the platform of continuing what he has started since taking the helm. In his five years as commissioner, Gipson has created the Genuine Mississippi brand to increase public awareness of locally created products and market opportunities for the producers. He has also worked to incorporate new timber markets in the state and has increased security measures at the Mississippi State Fair.

Though a debate between Gipson and Bradford appears unlikely, both candidates will be making an appearance at the Mississippi Economic Council’s annual Hobnob conference to address potential voters in the audience.

“Now in fact, my opponent and I have had back-to-back speaking engagements at the Neshoba County Fair in July and we will have another forum at the MEC Hobnob this coming October 26, which I believe should be more than sufficient for the citizens of Mississippi to make an informed choice on commissioner of agriculture and commerce,” Gibson said. “I have a proven track record and I look forward to sharing that record along with my vision for the Future of Mississippi at Hobnob on October 26.”

In Mississippi, agriculture generates around $9.72 billion annually with the Department of Agriculture and Commerce being granted a roughly $25 million budget each year.

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