Gov. Nixon visits Centralia to discuss beef industry

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CENTRALIA - Missouri is losing more than one billion dollars in revenue each year because 95 percent of beef cattle have to be sent out of state for processing.

Governor Nixon cited these numbers during a visit to Centralia High School school Wednesday. He spoke with student members of Future Farmers of America about plans to expand Missouri's beef industry.

Many students' families produce beef cattle or work in the agricultural industry. They said a large processing plant and feed lot based in Missouri could reduce shipping costs and keep their families from sending cattle to neighboring states.

Emily Angell is an FFA member and Centralia High School junior. Her family produces cattle in Centralia and has done so for generations.

"Some people don't realize the agriculture industry isn't just big business," Angell said. "It's small farms and family farms, so reducing shipping costs could help small farmers do more cattle business inside the state of Missouri."

Several other students supported the idea of building a processing plant and feed lot in Missouri for small, rural beef cattle farms. Austin Stanton suggested creating a cooperative between neighboring farmers to keep processing in-state and to keep it economical.

Richard Fordyce serves as director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, and said meetings like these are important for engaging young people in Missouri agriculture.

"Centralia FFA is the future of the number one industry in the state," Fordyce said. "And it's especially important to smaller towns because that's a big part of small, rural economy. So we're counting on your input and feedback to make this business better."

Nixon made similar remarks when speaking with the students.

"Agriculture is the backbone of the economy of our state," Nixon said. "We produce nearly 1.7 million cows every year, but most head to Colorado or Nebraska for processing. So we want to help keep the small town rural lifestyle alive by getting more farmers involved in production."

Missouri ranks second in the nation in cow and calf inventory. Missouri farmers primarily operate small-scale cow-calf operations, with an average herd size of 38. 

The governor will host a beef summit January 5, 2015 at the University of Missouri. University cattle experts, national beef packers and cattlemen will discuss ways to keep more money inside the state.