Agriculture remains one of the leading industries in Missouri.

Farming can seem like a quaint profession, invoking the images of leather-tanned farmers working their fields with a plow and mule or cowboys in their saddle, trailing cattle as they push across a field and head to market. Of course, agriculture today is a modernized industry, and it contributes more to the economy of Missouri than any other. Simply put, it is the backbone of our state.

The impact made by Missouri’s farmers and ranchers is vital, both in jobs and in providing food for Missourians and people worldwide. Agriculture and forestry industries in Missouri provide more than 450,000 jobs, which translates into almost $32 billion in household income, $15 billion in revenue for Missouri, and a direct economic output of more than $93 billion annually. Almost $40 billion of that is from value-added industries. While Cole County isn’t typically thought of as a rural area, we have a surprising amount of agricultural activities that occur right here in our community. In 2021, more than 4,100 jobs in Cole County were related to agriculture. That resulted in more than $178 million in household income and almost $690 million in total economic output, with nearly $300 million of that in value-added output.

What exactly is value-added agriculture? Typically, value-added agriculture is processing or manufacturing that creates products more valuable than the raw material. This can be anything from sawmills or meat processing facilities to ethanol or biodiesel plants. However, there are other ways to add value to agricultural products. Free-range livestock or organic-grown produce can add value to meats and vegetables. Even recreation can be value-added agriculture. Think of the tourist attractions that have started to accompany pumpkin patches or Christmas tree farms. All of those are ways that farmers can add value to their products. Over the past several years, the Missouri General Assembly has worked on expanding value-added agriculture within the state. Through grants and other tax credit programs, we have helped encourage increased productivity among our state’s farmers and ranchers. One such program is the Missouri Value-Added Agriculture Grant. This grant allows farmers to research new methods of adding value to their crops or livestock with a focus on economic development in rural communities. Another great program is the “Farm to Table” grant, which helps farmers process their locally grown commodities into food for use in our schools and state institutions.

Sen. Mike Bernskoetter is pictured above working at the Bernskoetter farm in Cole County. He took once in 2019 and serves the 6th SenatorialDistrict. He is also a lector,Eucharistic, and hospitality minister at Immaculate Conception Parish.

In 2022, the Gov. Mike Parson called lawmakers back to the capitol for an extra legislative session to establish several new tax credit programs and extend other existing ones designed to benefit our state’s agricultural industry. The legislation included tax credits for meat processing and agricultural processing, two of the most successful tax credit programs administered by the state. Throughout the course of these programs, they have displayed an excellent return on investment. We also reauthorized the New Generation CooperativeIncentive Tax Credit, which allows individual farmers to join together and finance value-added processing plants for their crops. Over the lifetime of this program, it has returned $3.50 for every $1 invested. Looking to the future, the Missouri Legislature also passed new incentives for ethanol and biodiesel production in the state. These two resources are important not only to our farmers, but also as a renewable energy source to the future of our world. As oil becomes scarcer, we will have to continue to pursue these exciting new technologies.

Missouri is a leader in agriculture both nationally and worldwide. Moving forward, we must continue to focus on ensuring our state’s farmers and ranchers have the resources they need to not only survive, but thrive— our way of life depends on it. Like many of you, I’m grateful to everyone that works day in and day out to ensure our state, our nation, and our world has a safe and secure food source.