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Annual "Salute to Agriculture" Breakfast
Mervyn Jenkins Expo Center
February 17, 2017

 Missouri Ag An $88B Industry
Newly-appointed State Ag Director Visits Chillicothe
February 20, 2017
Catherine Stortz Ripley, Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune

C-T Photo / Catherine Stortz Ripley

CAPTION: Chillicothe FFA members prepare breakfast (above) to serve during Friday's Salute to Agriculture at the Mervyn Jenkins Expo Center. The event was hosted by the Chillicothe FFA Chapter (pictured below) and the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce.

Improving Missouri's regulatory climate, revitalizing rural communities with improved internet service, and increasing agriculture awareness are among top goals of the newly-appointed director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Chris Chinn, of Clarence, Missouri, was appointed by Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens to the top agriculture position in state government in January and was the keynote speaker at the Salute to Agriculture breakfast Friday morning at the Mervyn Jenkins Expo Center.

More than 100 people attended, in addition to FFA members who prepared and served breakfasts of sausage, eggs and pancakes. The breakfast event is held annually by the Chillicothe FFA chapter and the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce and was sponsored by Woody's Automotive Group. Jeff Staton, representing Woody's, extended words of appreciation to the community members for their support and said that the company believes that it is important to give back to the community. Cole Gutshall (pictured at right - C-T Photo/Catherine Stortz Ripley), Chillicothe FFA chapter president, served as the emcee for the morning event and welcomed those in attendance. Chapter chaplain, Madelyn Warren, gave the invocation.

In her address to those gathered, Chris Chinn, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture (pictured at left - C-T Photo / Catherine Stortz Ripley), talked about the importance of agriculture to communities as well as its impact on the state's economy. She also expressed her desire for rural communities to be a place where future generations will want to live, work and raise families. "Any change we make on our farms or our ranches or in our agri-businesses is with that goal in mind," Chinn said. "We want to make sure we can turn that family farm or small business over to them in better shape than what we received it."

During one of her first meetings with then Governor-elect Greitens, Chinn stated that rural Missourians need the ability to bring their children back home to the farm and ranch. She said that many of the existing rules and regulations are stifling. "There needs to be an easier process for farming," she said, adding that the rules and regulations that aren't needed should be eliminated. She said the governor has issued a Rules and Regulations review that must be completed by May 2018.

C-T Photo / Catherine Stortz Ripley

Another area of concern to address is the inaccessibility of broadband internet service in rural areas. "How we bring the next generation home and revitalize the rural communities is through access to the internet," she said. "Our businesses and kids are at a disadvantage in rural areas." She said she is actively working on generating dialog for making high speed internet accessible to rural areas. "It is a mission of mine to bring all of the players to the table to make sure that we can get that rural internet and have faster speeds just like our city cousins have," she said. "If we have that basic need of rural broadband, we can help bring more businesses to our rural areas."

As director of the state's agriculture department, Chinn said she'd like to raise agricultural awareness in the urban areas. "A lot of people like to eat what is raised out here in rural America but they don't know a whole lot about how it gets to their plate," she said. "I want to make sure we are getting into the urban areas and we are sharing the story about agriculture." Part of that involves explaining how crops are grown. "There is so much on the internet today that talks about GMOs,”" she said. "A lot of people don't understand that science and technology or that it is safe. A lot of people don't know that the nutritional value between organic and non-organic food is exactly the same. These are the small things that you and I know in agriculture and rural communities, and I want to make sure that we can share that knowledge."

Chinn also highlighted the economic impact of Missouri agriculture in Missouri and stated that a newly released study revealed that agriculture's economic contribution to Missouri totals $88.4 billion. "We are the Number One industry in Missouri," she said. This number includes: crops, livestock, forestry and fishery production; agriculture inputs and services; food and related products manufacturing and forestry products manufacturing. "A lot of the urban legislators didn't know about the numbers," she said, adding that some may have claimed that there is not agriculture in their districts. "We all have agriculture," she said. She added that there are more than 100,000 farms in Missouri and that one out of every 10 jobs in the state is in agriculture or forestry. The study was commissioned by the Department of Agriculture and Missouri Farm Bureau and funded by Missouri Agriculture and Small Business Development Authority.

Chinn said there are a lot of great things happening in agriculture: Missouri is second in overall calf crop and that the state's cattle industry has expanded to 4.35 million head and that Missouri ranks third in the country for the number of beef cows. "The cattle industry is growing in Missouri," she said. "We need to talk about the value of those cattle being in our state." She also said that Missouri is now among the top five states producing meat goats and other goats.

The director re-emphasized the need to have strong agricultural communities for future generations and noted that the ag base is diverse. "In our community, we don't have many plumbers and electricians any more," she said. "And, the ones that we have are in their upper 70s. If we ever do a project in our barn, we may have to wait two to four weeks to be able to get on our electrician's list to have him come out to our farm and ranch. There is a lot of opportunity out there for our kids that they can go into those trades and learn those skills and come back home to their rural areas and be an entrepreneur."

Chinn said that Missourians need to let the younger generation know that career options exist for them. "College is great, and I want my kids to go to college; but, if they decide that may not be the avenue for them, I want them to know that there are other opportunities out there and be proud of those other opportunities," she said. "I want them to realize that there is a place for them back in our rural communities and that they can be the next leader in agriculture. I want our youth to know that you don't have to have a title, you don't have to be an officer in the FFA, you don't have to be the officer of any club in your school to realize that you can be a leader and that you can make a difference," she said.

Chinn concluded her message by encouraging the students to never underestimate the power they have to share their story about agriculture. "Many of you will leave Chillicothe in a year or two for education," she said. "I want you to realize you have a great story to share. Hold your head high when you say you’re from a rural community and talk about all the great things this community has given you. You have a lot of life skills that, when you get to college, your peers may not have."

The event closed with drawings conducted by Citizens Bank & Trust, FCS Financial, Investors Community Bank, Livingston County Farm Bureau and Willcross Seed. Exhibitors at the event were Bank Midwest, Barnes-Baker Motors, BTC Bank, Chillicothe Ford-Lincoln, Inc., Citizens Bank & Trust, FCS Financial, Investors Community Bank, Livingston County Farm Bureau, Sydenstricker Farm & Lawn, Willcross Seed and Ziegler Ag Equipment.

Chamber Ag Breakfast Committee members were Chasity Anderson, Roger Barnes, Cathy Ripley, Scott Rule, Matt Trussell, Amy Ireland, Noel Gott.

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