New study: Agriculture could bring thousands of new jobs to Missouri

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COLUMBIA - A new study from the Missouri Agricultural Foundation found the $48 billion industry could soon contribute even more to the state’s economy.

The study was conducted as part of the Show-Me-State Food, Beverage & Forest Products Manufacturing Initiative. It found over the next eight years, the industry could contribute billions more and create thousands of new jobs.

MU College of Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources Dean Christopher Daubert initiated the project when he arrived at MU in late 2017.

“We did a great job on the livestock, with cattle, swine, with poultry,” Daubert said. “But, we did a poor job in taking those basic commodities and transforming them into consumables, the things you and I see every day at the local grocery stores.”

Daubert said he recognized the problem because it was similar to one he worked to solve while he was head of the Department of Food, Bioprocessing, & Nutrition Sciences at NC State University in North Carolina.

Missouri is among the top producers of more than ten different commodities according to Missouri Farm Bureau Director of Public Affairs Eric Bohl. He said farmers often send their commodities elsewhere to be processed into their final form.

“If we could keep more of that processing at home locally and capture that value for Missouri’s economy for our rural situation, rural economy,” Bohl said.

The study found that keeping the entire process from the farm to the grocery store in the state of Missouri could lead to substantial economic benefits.

“By the year 2027, pursuing three recommendations identified, we could create more than 70,000 news jobs while contributing more than $25 billion to the state’s economy,” Daubert said. “That’s beyond projected growth in agriculture already.”

With the anticipated growth, in total the next eight years the agriculture industry could contribute $71 billion to Missouri’s economy and $3 billion annually in state and local taxes.

“I think it can contribute to raising the tax base throughout rural Missouri,” Daubert said. “Creating opportunities and expanding the local economies throughout Missouri is a likely outcome with the proper investment in this initiative.”

When it comes to 70,000 new jobs, the study said they would mostly be in rural areas.

“That could make a huge difference for rural Missouri which is always struggling to find ways to bring jobs and money back into our rural economy,” Bohl said. “So, that’s going to be transformative for what we’re looking for in rural Missouri.”

To achieve this level of economic growth within the agriculture industry over the next eight years, the study suggested the State of Missouri put forward three initiatives.

The first suggestion is to create a statewide network to help those interested in establishing a food based business.

“The first initiative is about creating a network throughout Missouri, partnering with other institutions of higher education,” Daubert said. “To create a pathway for anyone with an entrepreneurial to creating a food business to help them with business expertise that may be needed, with food science expertise that may be needed to take their products to local retail outlets.”

The study also suggests the state look into a link between the foods we eat and healthy living.

“A way that we can take things we already excel at and bring them together with the additional investments in Missouri to create products that everyone in the world is going to want to use,” Bohl said. “The food for health initiative is something that could transform the way people consume food and treat diseases.”

The last suggestion mentioned in the study places emphasis on keeping livestock production in the state.

“For Missouri’s livestock industries, we do a great job with hogs and cattle and growing them here in our state, but we ship them out of state for processing,” Daubert said. “And that is really where the value added, economic benefits are realized. It is in that finishing and further processing state.”

Farmers have been generally supportive of the idea of keeping more of the manufacturing process in the state of Missouri. Brian Martin, who grows corn and soybeans in Centralia said he thinks with some more investment in infrastructure, Missouri could have a lot to gain if it can keep more of the manufacturing process in the state.

The next step is to create a statewide task force to address each of the three initiatives.

“That task force will put together working groups that put a path before us to achieve each of those recommendations so those economic benefits can be realized,” Daubert said.

Daubert said the team hopes to present specific findings related to each initiative at the Governor’s Agriculture Conference in January 2020.