July 9, 2019

Kansas City is middle ground for ag issues and opportunities

By Laura Bardot

Kansas and Missouri certainly represent the heartland of the U.S.—flyover states to some, but rich in history, beauty and economic impact to many. The agriculture industry in both states is a leading economic driver, with nearly 95,000 agriculture operations in Missouri and 58,900 in Kansas.  

During the Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) annual meeting held in Kansas City June 18-20, AdFarmers heard from top agriculture specialists as they gave their insight and opinions on some of the largest issues facing Missouri and Kansas agriculture. Missouri Department of Agriculture director, Chris Chinn; University of Missouri associate extension professor Dr. Scott Brown; and Kansas State University associate professor Dr. Mykel Taylor shared their unique perspectives.

Up for discussion? African Swine Fever, hemp, rural internet access, extreme weather events, land values, trade wars and alternative protein sources—just to get us started.

USDA moving west

Eric Bohl, ARC panel moderator and director of public affairs for Missouri Farm Bureau, asked about Secretary Sonny Perdue’s decision to relocate the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to the Kansas City area.

Chinn expressed her excitement for the ERS and NIFA to move to the heartland. She said the move would be mutually beneficial, both for the producers and rural communities in both states and the agencies who would be more central to the communities they serve.

Brown and Taylor both elaborated on the opportunities of having the ERS and NIFA close to two leading land-grant universities, University of Missouri and Kansas State University. Brown said the relocation would bring new learning opportunities for students, faculty and farmers in each state.

Crisis ahead?

Bohl also asked the panel about the potential threat for animal diseases in the states, specifically African Swine Fever (ASF). Chinn, who is a generational swine farmer, explained the biosecurity protocol her operation uses as well as opportunities for farmers and ranchers to learn from the ASF outbreak in Asia.

Brown expanded on natural disasters speaking to the flooding throughout Missouri and Kansas. He mentioned how several producers had to make the tough decision of choosing prevented planting acres due to fields being unrecoverable.

Chinn noted the relief efforts the Missouri Department of Agriculture and Missouri Governor Mike Parson are taking to aid farmers across the state, such as getting federal funding for disaster relief. Both Chinn and Gov. Parson have visited multiple farming operations in the northwest corner of the state to talk to farmers and hear their concerns for the 2019 growing season.

When asked if American agriculture is heading toward another 1980s farm crisis, Brown and Taylor were optimistic about changes in agriculture since that time and conditions of the ‘80s crisis that are absent today. Interest rates have been much steadier and with fewer farmers, the structure of the farm economy has significantly changed, Brown said, adding that while we are certainly in a time of constriction, a crisis of the magnitude is unlikely.

Plenty of reasons for optimism

While it’s easy to feel discouraged with the current state of agricultural issues, the panelists offered their optimistic takes on what is to come for Kansas and Missouri agriculture.

Taylor said the incoming generation of producers is innovative and investing in creative ways to ensure profit, like diversifying their marketing and selling direct to consumer. She added that the advent of “big data” and increased technology accessibility on farms is also an exciting opportunity.

Chinn concluded that equipping farmers and ranchers with the right tools to move their businesses forward would continue to be a top priority.

Laura Bardot is a PR and Content Specialist for AdFarm. She is a fifth-generation farm kid with a profound enthusiasm for the Midwest, cattle and Texas Red Dirt music.