Most will agree it has been a challenging year for Missouri farmers and ranchers. Yet despite the hardships they face, agriculture continues to be the leading economic contributor in the state, adding more than $88.4 billion in revenue in 2018.

Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn spoke to the Democrat about the future of agriculture statewide and in the national and international markets. 

“It’s been a challenging year for Missouri farmers and ranchers,” Chinn said. “Last year’s drought was tough on both our livestock and crop sectors.

“This year, flooding has caused late planting so several farmers are feeling behind,” she continued. “The extra rain has helped our hay stocks recover since we depleted our hay last year. However, we know that our farmers and ranchers in Missouri are resilient.”

As Chinn explained, farmers and ranchers know that choosing to make one’s livelihood in agriculture isn’t easy. When choosing to the farm they know there will be both good years and bad years.

“We use the good years to prepare for when the bad years hit,” Chinn said. “For many involved in agriculture, they’ve watched their parents and grandparents go through tough years and it taught them valuable lessons on making smart decisions to be prepared for the challenges that we know will come. Farming is more than just a job or career, it’s a way of life for all of us.”

Chinn knows firsthand of the challenges she speaks of. As a fifth-generation farmer, she has been a member of the agricultural community her entire life.

Despite the challenges, Chinn said she feels Missouri is bringing the next generation of agriculture home.

According to information provided by Chinn, the average age of the Missouri farmer increased by one year to 59.4 years. However, farms specializing in the livestock sectors of hogs, dairy and poultry showed a significantly younger average age.

Hog farmers are made up of 25% young farmers, which is defined as 35 years or younger. Data also shows that 16-20% of farmers on dairy, poultry, sheep and goat producers are young farmers.    

“I encourage everyone to choose a career in agriculture,” Chinn commented. “It’s the one career that no matter where you are, you have a strong family of agriculturalists around you. The lessons you learn and the friendships you have are more valuable than any salary you have.”

Chinn is optimistic recent legislation will have a positive impact on the state’s farmers and ranchers.  

“Having free trade agreement discussions with our three biggest customers has caused volatility in our markets,” Chinn explained. “Farmers and ranchers are appreciative of the new trading partners that the Trump administration is working to solidify.

“For example, Japan and the EU will soon accept more U.S. beef,” Chinn added. “We are excited to get the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement across the finish line as well. This agreement is a bright spot in agriculture because it includes protections for biotechnology and provides more market access for dairy, poultry and egg farmers.”

Despite the challenges, Chinn emphasized it is a great time to be a part of Missouri’s agricultural community.

Missouri remains second in the number of farms in the United States with more than 95,000 farms on 27.8 million acres.

“Our leaders are working hard to grow Missouri agriculture, our trade opportunities and value-added businesses,” Chinn explained. “My hope for our rural communities is that they become connected to high-speed internet.

“We have the chance to improve the lives of all Missourians by investing in these infrastructure projects. Access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet means positive things for economic development, healthcare, education and agriculture,” she continued. “We’ve made huge progress since I’ve become Director of Agriculture: millions of federal dollars secured, the Missouri Office of Broadband established and several local leaders connected to the resources they need.”

Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

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