Spring is one of my favorite seasons. I often see it as a season of hope.
After a long winter, the sun starts shining again, the grass starts turning green, and farmers are returning to their fields. The fresh, warm air is a reminder that no matter what last year brought, there is a fresh start again.
When I see spring calves running around our farm and in the pastures of our neighbors, I’m reminded of the hope they symbolize — hope of a prosperous year to come. When I see farmers planting their fields, I think of the hope they have for this year’s harvest.
Spring calves and spring planting is also a sign of trust. Farmers must trust that they will get to harvest in the fall what they planted in the spring. Farmers and ranchers must trust that when their product is ready for harvest, there will be a market and a demand for it.
This year, especially, the agriculture market is showing promising signs, which gives me hope for a prosperous year.
Exports offer bright spot
USDA has forecast a record year for agricultural exports. In 2021, agricultural exports are expected to reach $157 billion, up $5 billion from the November forecast. This forecast is driven by higher oilseed and grain export demand. Soybeans are forecast to hit a record of $27.4 billion, mostly due to strong demand from China.
Grain isn’t the only commodity we’re expecting to export more of this year. The U.S. is expected to export more horticulture, livestock, dairy and poultry products than in 2020. In addition, the nation is expected to export more than $20 billion worth of agricultural exports to our neighbors to the north, Canada, as well as China.
After several consecutive challenging years for Missouri farmers, I’m hopeful and eager to see better markets in the future. The state’s agriculture exports surpassed $2.3 billion last year and were purchased for use around the world.
Our top five export partners for agricultural goods are Mexico, Canada, Japan, China and South Korea, in that order. In 2020, we exported $478 million in soybeans and soybean meal, $390 million in pork and pork products, $225 million in prepared foods, $210 million in forest products, $160 million in corn, and $148 in dairy products. Missouri farmers truly grow food for the entire world.
Infrastructure drives exports
Shortly after the ice thawed, we saw the first fertilizer barge of 2021 come up the Missouri River. Those barges will be emptied, cleaned and refilled with grain for the rest of the world.
Missouri is uniquely positioned to quickly and efficiently export and import commodities because of access to rivers, rails and highway systems. Missouri is home to the second- and third-largest rail hubs in the U.S., 15 barge ports and 33,000 miles of state highways.
And we are within 600 miles of 51% of all U.S. households and some of America’s fastest growing metro areas such as San Antonio, Austin, Nashville, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston. Having this infrastructure in place sets Missouri farmers up for future success.
Best days ahead
Spring also makes me hopeful for the agriculture industry in general. Every year, I am reminded of the resiliency of Missouri’s farmers and ranchers. We’ve faced some hard challenges in the past few years from flooding and drought, to poor market prices and a global pandemic. Yet, farmers wake up every day, put their boots on and do the work it takes to feed a growing world.
I have so much trust in Missouri farmers to raise wholesome products for consumers’ tables. We are at the forefront of technology advances, and we are good stewards of our land.
I see spring as a time of hope, but year-round, through every season, our farmers and ranchers give me the hope I need to improve Missouri agriculture for the next generation as your director of agriculture.
Chinn is the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture and a hog producer from Clarence, Mo.