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Agriculture's simple mission

Written by Steve Fairchild on .

It is a mission with momentum. The Drive to Feed Kids is once again under way, and this year’s goal is to pack 100,000 nutritious, kid-friendly meals at the Missouri State Fair.

In 2017, Missouri Farmers Care launched this effort to combat childhood food insecurity and showcase Missouri agriculture. The inaugural campaign raised close to $150,000 along with more than 9,000 pounds of food donations. With the help of Missouri FFA students, some 52,000 nutritious meals were packed for children in need. The meals were distributed by Feeding Missouri, a coalition of Missouri food banks.

Organizers want to build on last year’s success.

For those not affected by it, food insecurity might not be top of mind, but it is more pervasive than most people realize. According to 2017 research from USDA, 15 percent of households in rural areas are food insecure. Some factors that lead to higher levels of food insecurity among rural residents stand out. Compared to urban areas, rural places have a higher concentration of low-wage employment and, on average, lower levels of education. Yet, some contributors to food insecurity in rural areas are less obvious. There are fewer work-support services such as flexible and affordable childcare. Public transportation is less available. The combination of these factors makes food insecurity among rural households generally higher than in urban households.

Wide-based research shows that food insecurity is an obstacle to educational success, which has knock-on effects on social costs for rural communities. Such problems can become self-perpetuating.

Funds raised from the Drive to Feed Kids campaign are focused on child-friendly meals that are often distributed in backpacks or after-school programs that put food directly in the hands of children in need.

“We have seen hunger and food insecurity increase in rural areas over the past decade,” said Dr. Alan Wessler, vice president of MFA’s Feed Division and chairman of Missouri Farmers Care. “Some things are out of our control. We can’t control the economy. We can’t make rapid recoveries for rural communities who have suffered economic setbacks. What we can do is join together as an agricultural community to do what agriculture does best—feed people. That’s why Missouri Farmers Care, with its more than 40 member organizations, is leading the way with Drive to Feed Kids.”

The 2018 Drive to Feed Kids event will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 14, at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia. The event coincides with the Missouri FFA Food Insecurity Service Day where hundreds of FFA members from across the state will come together to pack 100,000 meals. On Saturday, Aug. 18, the drive will culminate with a check presentation to Feeding Missouri during the Cole Swindell concert.

If you would like to become a partner with Drive to Feed Kids, contact Dr. Alan Wessler at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Individual donations can be directed to mofarmerscare.com/drive.

Missouri's Fordyce to lead Farm Service Agency

Written by Tf Staff on .

Former Missouri Director of Agriculture Richard Fordyce has been named national administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).

In his new role, Fordyce will provide leadership for the agency and its mission to support agricultural production across America through a network of more than 2,100 county and 50 state offices. Most recently, he served as Missouri’s FSA executive director.

“As a fourth-generation farmer, Richard brings firsthand knowledge and experience to this role,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in announcing the appointment. “I am confident that he will continue to help USDA become the most efficient, effective, customer-focused agency in the federal government.”

Previously, Fordyce ran the Missouri Department of Agriculture from 2013 to 2017. In 2015, he was awarded the Missouri Farm Bureau Distinguished Service Award and the Agricultural Leaders of Tomorrow Alumnus of the Year. He has served in roles for the National Biodiesel Board and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and spent 11 years as one of the Missouri directors on the United Soybean Board.

He and his wife, Renee, have two children and raise row crops and beef cattle on their family farm in Bethany, Mo.

Saluting stewardship

Written by TF Staff on .

Missouri farmers, ranchers and other private landowners who voluntarily demonstrate outstanding stewardship and management of natural resources will have an opportunity to win a $10,000 award for their efforts.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2018 Missouri Leopold Conservation Award Program, recognizing those who have made extraordinary achievements in voluntary conservation. Nominees will be evaluated on such criteria as conservation ethic, innovation, adaptability, resilience, leadership and communications.

The Sand County Foundation, a nonprofit conservation organization, presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 13 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In Missouri, the award was presented for the first time in 2017 in conjunction with Missouri Farmers Care and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. Missouri’s inaugural Leopold award was presented to the Lambert family of Laclede.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes those who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.

“The Leopold Conservation Award is an excellent venue for Missouri’s agriculture community to highlight the great work of farmers, ranchers and foresters,” said Alan Wessler, chairman of Missouri Farmers Care and vice president of feed for MFA Incorporated. “This program highlights farmers’ best practices and purpose to meet an ultimate goal: leaving the land in as good or better shape for the next generation.”

Nominations may be submitted on behalf of a landowner, or landowners may nominate themselves. All applications must be submitted or postmarked by July 20. The application can be found at http://mofarmerscare.com/leopold-conservation-award/. Finalists will be announced in November.

Missouri wants 'fake' meat clearly labeled

Written by TF Staff on .

Under legislation passed by Missouri lawmakers this session, the Show-Me State will be the first to require clear labeling of lab-grown or plant-based meat substitutes to designate that these products did not originate from livestock.

The bill, given the green light by the Missouri House on April 26 and the Senate on May 17, prohibits “misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry.” This means manufacturers would not be able to market those products as “meat” if selling them in Missouri.

The measure is backed by Missouri Farm Bureau and the state’s cattle, pork, poultry, corn and soybean associations. Missouri Cattlemen’s Association member Andy McCorkill testified during the House legislative hearing, saying the bill “ensures the integrity of the meat supply” in Missouri.

“Calling [plant-based products] meat without knowing the inspection process, the nutrient profile of these products, food safety or anything is a disservice to farmers, ranchers and consumers,” McCorkill said. “It is important these products don’t misrepresent our industry. We care for our livestock and invest a lot of time and money in ensuring the consumer has a safe, nutritious and affordable product.”

U.S. sales of plant-based substitutes for animal food products rose by 8.1 percent between 2016 and 2017. According to the Plant Based Food Association, 36 percent of consumers purchase plant-based meat substitutes. Among millennials, that figure jumps to 60 percent. These products go by names such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger.

Opponents argued that creating a Missouri-specific prohibition would create an untenable situation where products sold in the state must be labeled differently from products sold in all 49 other states.

At press time, the bill was on Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ desk to be signed.

Farmer are 'first casualties' in trade war with China

Written by TF Staff on .

Threatened tariffs from China could take a huge toll on U.S. agriculture by cutting soybean exports by as much as 40 percent. The impact would be severely felt in MFA territory, where Missouri, Iowa and Kansas are among the top 10 soybean-exporting states.

On April 2, the Trump administration announced a second round of tariff increases on goods imported from China, a move meant to address the country’s illegal trade practices. The next day, China proposed tariffs against some of the most important U.S. exports, including soybeans, cotton, corn, wheat, sorghum and beef. Pork exported from the U.S. to China was already covered by recently announced Chinese tariffs.

“It is hard to remember a more potentially calamitous week for U.S. agriculture,” Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said after the announcement. “If fully implemented, these actions spell trouble for Missouri agriculture producers.”

On April 12, Hurst and the presidents of the Missouri’s Cattlemen’s, Soybean, Pork and Corn Growers associations issued a joint statement urging elected leaders to “negotiate a solution that addresses the issue of intellectual property theft while protecting Missouri’s No. 1 industry from devastating retaliation.”

China is by far the leading destination for U.S. soybeans, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all U.S. soybean exports. A recent Purdue University study estimates that tariffs similar to those proposed by China would cause up to $3.3 billion in annual economic losses for soybeans alone. That figure doesn’t include lost sales of pork, corn, cotton and beef.

“There are no winners in a trade war, only casualties,” said Wesley Spurlock, chairman of the National Corn Growers Association. “As trade tensions continue to mount with China, the expanded list of tariffs on food and agriculture exports are making America’s farmers the first casualties.”

For beef producers, the tariffs could unravel the industry’s recent progress in growing sales to China. Following a 13-year absence, the U.S. regained access to the Chinese market last June. U.S. beef already faces a 12 percent tariff in China. The new measures would raise the tariff to 37 percent, putting the U.S. even further behind competitors with a free-trade agreement.

Trump’s proposed tariffs will take effect in June. A public comment period will last until May 11, and a hearing is set for May 15. China is not expected to take formal action unless the U.S. moves forward with implementing its tariffs.

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