A Farmer Shall Lead Them

Show-Me Life

Missouri has a farmer as its new department of agriculture director. But can he talk the talk and walk the walk?

Published on: December 20, 2013

I first met Missouri’s new department of agriculture director, Richard Fordyce, back in 2008 on his farm outside of Bethany. That year the agriculture industry was at the height of the food versus fuel debate. He was one of hundreds of farmers across the state, straddling the economic fence. While his grain crops were experiencing a boom in price, his cattle operation was suffering due to high feed costs.

At that time, he was also battling rising crop input costs. Standing in his fields, there was one area of corn yellowing from lack of nitrogen. He only used liquid nitrogen and that cost nearly doubled. He lamented that the crop needed another shot of nitrogen, but was not going to get it because it could not pencil out.

FARMER-LEADER: Richard Fordyce is Missours new department of agriculture director. He brings to the position knowledge of crop and livestock production gleaned from his Harrison County farm.
FARMER-LEADER: Richard Fordyce is Missour's new department of agriculture director. He brings to the position knowledge of crop and livestock production gleaned from his Harrison County farm.

In our conversation, five years ago, he made a forward-looking statement, “You can’t sustain this rapid increase for a long time, no business can.” And he was right. The paradigm in agriculture has once again shifted as commodity prices are coming down and cattle prices are coming back. Still there is one thing that remains, crop input costs remain high.

The fourth-generation farmer from Bethany understands the difficulties farmers face in getting ahead in the agriculture industry. But along with that understanding, Fordyce brings leadership skills from the local, state and national level to the department of agriculture.

He is one of only three directors from Missouri on the United Soybean Board. He has held leadership positions in the National Biodiesel Board, the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, Agricultural Leaders of Tomorrow, University of Missouri Extension and the Northwest Missouri State Fair.

Fordyce is active in agriculture in conservation efforts. Since 2008, he has served as chair of the Missouri State Soil & Water Districts Commission. He has held positions in Missouri Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

I believe Missouri’s agriculture industry is ready for a farmer-led department of agriculture. There is no doubt in my mind that Fordyce understands the daily aspects of agriculture. He lives it. Still his years of farming and serving on national boards have brought him insight to the needs of promoting Missouri agriculture beyond our state borders. Fordyce can walk and talk agriculture.

Others in the industry are weighing in on the governor's selection. Here are a couple responses from Missouri’s ag industry:

“Agriculture remains the backbone of Missouri’s economy, and we commend Governor Nixon for appointing someone of the caliber of Richard Fordyce as the Director of Agriculture.  Richard is first and foremost a farmer, who understands the issues facing our industry every day.  Richard has strong ties to Missouri’s agricultural community and has proven his leadership skills in several agriculture organizations and as chairman of the Missouri Soil and Water Districts Commission.  We look forward to working with him on the opportunities and challenges facing Missouri farmers and ranchers.” -Blake Hurst, Missouri Farm Bureau President

"This is good news for Missouri's cattlemen and cattlewomen, as well as all of agriculture. Richard understands the importance of Missouri's farm and ranch families to this state's economy and values the admirable role they play in feeding a growing global population. Being a farmer himself, Richard also fully understands the challenges Missouri agriculture faces today and tomorrow.” – Mike Deering, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association Director

Here is hoping that Fordyce can bring a common sense approach to what is best for Missouri agriculture to his new position. I think the state’s farm and ranch families deserve it.