Diversity is 'blessing' for Mississippi, new ag leader says

Andy Gipson (Source: State of Mississippi/Mississippi House of Representatives)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The new Mississippi agriculture commissioner says diversity of race and culture makes the state stronger.

Former state Rep. Andy Gipson of Braxton was sworn in Monday as the state's eighth commissioner of agriculture and commerce.

Gipson is an attorney, farmer and Baptist pastor. He says Mississippi's diversity has been "a problem" in the past but he believes God has designed that diversity "for blessing, not for cursing."

Gipson succeeds fellow Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, who is moving to the U.S. Senate.

Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Hyde-Smith to the Senate to follow Republican Thad Cochran, who retired Sunday.

Gipson had represented House District 77, in parts of Simpson and Rankin counties, since 2008. Bryant will set a special election to fill the rest of the House term, which ends in January 2020.