Area farmer picked as ag director

Friday, January 7, 2005

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Fred Ferrell, a Charleston, Mo., farmer who multiplied a few cattle into a sprawling and diversified agriculture business, was named the next state agriculture director by governor-elect Matt Blunt on Thursday.

Ferrell becomes the second Bootheel resident Blunt has picked to lead a state department. The first was Michael Keathley of Bernie, Mo., whom Blunt tabbed last month as commissioner of the Office of Administration.

Ferrell, 63, owns Ferrell Farms, a corn, wheat, soybean and cattle operation he founded with his father and recently turned over to his son, Britton Ferrell. The elder Ferrell bought his first four cows while a senior the University of Missouri-Columbia. The Charleston-area farm now has about 150 cows along with corn, wheat and soybeans on 3,000 acres

Ferrell is also owner and chief executive officer of Mid-Valley Irrigation Inc., which provides field irrigation services. The company is based in Charleston and has offices in Kennett and Dyersburg, Tenn.

Ferrell said one of his top priorities is to improve the safety of Missouri's food supply and ensure it is free of contamination.

"We have some clouds on the horizon, with the safety and soundness of our food being one of the issues," said Ferrell, citing Missouri's No. 2 ranking in cow-calf operations and the national attention being paid to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease. So far, no cases of the disease have been found in Missouri.

Having preventive plans in place will be one of the first things we attack, Ferrell said.

His appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

Blunt also named former state Rep. Matt Boatright, R-Sedalia, as deputy agriculture director. Boatright, who served in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003, owns and operates a cattle farm.

The appointments were announced at Missouri Farm Bureau headquarters, an indication of the key role the insurance and lobbying group will play in Blunt's administration. Blunt and both of his agriculture appointees are among the Farm Bureau's 103,000 members.

The Farm Bureau's political action committees endorsed Blunt and helped organize some of his rural campaign events. The Farm Bureau also hosted an election eve rally at its headquarters for Blunt and other Republican candidates. And Blunt counts Farm Bureau director Charles Kruse among his friends.

"They're going to have a voice in my administration, and there is a reason we're here today make this announcement, because of my high regard and respect for the Farm Bureau," Blunt said. All of Blunt's other appointments have been announced at the Capitol.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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