Missouri's 55th governor, Jay Nixon, granted Missouri Ruralist an interview at the 2010 Missouri Governor's Conference on Agriculture in St. Louis. Following are questions I posed on agriculture issues and his responses.
Q: Last year was an extra challenging year with the recession, extreme weather, volatile grain markets, and hard-hit dairy and pork markets. How are you helping agriculture overcome these negatives?
Gov. Nixon: The resiliency and diversity of Missouri agriculture sure helps in a year like that. Farmers here have the ability to choose crops -- whether it's soybeans, corn wheat or grain sorghum, or even rice and cotton. The livestock sector has had the most difficult time. We are trying to assist where we can, but also to push modern technology. We are one of the few states that have taken Recovery Act energy dollars and moved those directly to farming operations. Plus, we are being aggressive about getting more Missouri products sold on the export market. We continue to work on corn and soybean deals with Asian countries, and were able to expand the river port at New Madrid.
Q: Is it possible to boost the Department of Agriculture's budget to rebuild the grain inspection force and protect Missouri's ag industry against grain fraud?
Gov. Nixon: We are looking at raising grain inspection service fees and others ways to raise revenue so the Department of Agriculture can do its job.
Q: Farmers express concerns about the increasing cost of transportation and deteriorating roads and bridges. How can Missouri improve its transportation system to ensure cost effective and reliable delivery of agricultural products?
Gov. Nixon: "Recovery Act dollars will help alleviate some of the repair issues. About $6.5 million came to the state for road and bridge improvement. The first Recovery Act-funded project in the U.S. was the Tuscumbia Bridge here in Missouri. We want to improve our transportation infrastructure and help farmers get their products to market. We still have a lot to fix – about 800 bridges alone. We need to continue to find ways to improve and finance our transportation systems.
Q: With HSUS working its way into the state with a ballot initiative to try to regulate dog breeders, are you concerned with what this could lead to down the road with agriculture?
Gov. Nixon: Director Hagler has done a good job of enforcing Missouri laws that exist. We've had a very robust year in enforcing [the] Missouri law. We've taken the tools we have and I think he's made a substantial difference in changing a little bit of a culture out there that felt it was unregulated … It is a little bit of a window into some folks who just don't understand meat operations. They don't understand agriculture.