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Director of Missouri Department of Agriculture speaks to Cape Chamber of Commerce members
Many people underestimate the reach of agriculture, according to Dr. Jon Hagler, the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, who spoke to the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce on Friday morning at the Show Me Center.
"Everything that feeds, fuels or clothes the world -- that's agriculture. We impact every single thing in your life in almost every way," Hagler said.
Agricultural commodities in Missouri are a $12 billion business, he said.
"When you add in agribusiness from machinery to wineries, when you add in the animal and plant research, it is no wonder that agriculture continues to be our No. 1 industry," Hagler said.
Feeding the world's growing population will be a challenge for Missouri farmers in the coming years, Hagler said.
It is projected that by 2050, the world's population is expected to reach 9 billion people.
"In order to feed 9 billion people, we cannot lose one single square inch of farmland and we have to double production," Hagler said. "That's a significant challenge. Obviously we are losing farmland."
The Birds Point levee breach last year in Southeast Missouri and flooding along the Missouri River in the northeast devastated many acres of farm ground.
Hagler said he and Gov. Jay Nixon are fighting hard to have those levees restored and working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the future management of the river.
"We need to restore not only that productive farmland, but that impact to the economy. That impact to the local school district. That impact to the local county budget, to the local businesses that thrive and depend on that product moving through our system," Hagler said.
Farming is always about what's up next, he said, with the hope that next year will be better than this year.
For agriculture to succeed, it must "ride the wave of change," Hagler said.
"We've gone in 100 years from a plow and a mule to GPS, laser-guided air-conditioned tractors, from wild guessing to soil science, from mechanical technology to biotechnology. Our industry has completely changed," he said.
With only 1.5 percent of Americans living on a farm or ranch, agriculture has to connect with a broader audience, Hagler said.
"As generations move further and further away from the farm, they lose that valuable connection to agriculture," he said.
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