Ag potential for SE Missouri

Sunday, May 2, 2010

By Michael Aide

Southeast Missouri has the resource base to become the center of the most productive agricultural region in the world.

Just let this sentence flow in one's mind for a moment.

Consider the transportation networks with interstates, paved secondary roads and the rail, river and air-transport systems. This region has financial and entrepreneurial motivation and capital availability. Farmers and ranchers are motivated to incorporate emerging technologies to promote farm profitability and crop quality while protecting soil, water and air resources.

The region has two higher education institutions (Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia) cooperating to provide the necessary research and teaching to maintain and advance a knowledgeable agriculture workforce.

For Southeast Missouri State University's part, the Department of Agriculture is seeking to place an agribusiness degree program at Sikeston, Malden and Kennett, and we are also partnering with Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff to provide a comprehensive agriculture program.

The value of crop production is immense, contributing to the local and regional economy. USDA agriculture census reports the following row-crop values by county: Stoddard ($170 million), New Madrid ($140 million), Dunklin ($122 million), Mississippi ($105 million), Pemiscot ($100 million), Butler ($86 million) and Scott ($80 million). Add to this the value of poultry, beef, potatoes, peaches, lima beans, turf grasses and other crops, and we see that agriculture greatly supports our schools and communities.

Local, regional and national agribusinesses provide emerging technologies to our growers and employ individuals having careers ranging from agriculture finance, marketing and sales to crop advising and machinery maintenance.

We have geographic proximity to major markets throughout the interior of the U.S., and the Mississippi River allows access to major international markets.

Lastly, our region is home to a virtually unlimited quantity of high-quality water that permits sustainable and environmentally responsible irrigation.

All of these attributes characterize our region and set the economic stage for Southeast Missouri to become the world's premiere agricultural region.

What remains is a belief that our region is destined for economic rebirth and agriculture will have a role.

Please realize that this region has critical advantages when compared to the Central Valley of California, and emerging technology companies are viewing our region for investment.

Let's collectively support our existing growers and our existing agribusinesses and offer our hospitality to new agriculture investment.

Michael Aide is chairman of the Department of Agriculture at Southeast Missouri State University.

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