The governor also said the state’s shortcomings in education will be a barrier to progress if something isn’t done to change the situation.

“We’re in trouble in Mississippi,” he says. “Nearly half of the third grade children in the state — 46 percent — can’t read at a third grade proficiency level.” And he says, an even higher percentage can’t perform at proficiency levels in math or science.

 “There’s no way we can maintain achieve the economic goals and opportunities we seek in Mississippi with this type of failure in education.”

His just-unveiled plan for education would, he says, “offer more choices, such as charter schools, in areas where children need them most. We’re going to have to remove school district barriers that are like the Berlin Wall. We’re going to have to pay better teachers more than those that are just doing an average job — paying not for longevity, but what they accomplish in the classroom.

“We need to look at opportunity scholarships to non-public schools for children who want to succeed, but can’t because they’re are trapped in D and F school districts. If we don’t, in 20 years we won’t have a viable work force in Mississippi and no opportunity to attract new industry.”

Bryant, who says a highlight of his weekends is Bush Hogging on the family farm — “When I get off at the end of the day and see that beautifully-cut pasture, there’s a real sense of accomplishment” — says it’s important that “we continue trying to reach out and try to get the media to understand what farming is all about.”

He commended the Mississippi Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program for its efforts to educate the state’s school children about agriculture’s role in their lives.

“It’s inspirational,” he says, “to see children who haven’t grown up in an agricultural environment, who believe corn comes from cans, and watch the joy on their faces as farmers and their family members explain how it is that they have this bounty of food to enjoy.”