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Reflect on 2023 before flipping calendar

Ag Matters: Missouri agriculture endured struggles with weather, but there were some great moments in the past year.

Chris Chinn

December 29, 2023

4 Min Read
A close up of a crop sprouting through soil
SUN SETS ON 2023: Missouri Ag Director Chris Chinn looks at the highs and lows that made 2023 one to remember for agriculture in the state. Mindy Ward

As we look to 2024, I want to take a minute to look back on the year that is wrapping up. Some really fun things happened in 2023 that I will remember for a lifetime. Other things, perhaps not.

Let’s start with the fun:

Farm bill listening sessions. The Show-Me State played host to two farm bill listening sessions. I appreciate the national legislators who listened intently to Missouri producers and commodity leaders at both sessions. A special thank-you goes to Congressman Mark Alford and Sen. Eric Schmitt for hosting the sessions and bringing their colleagues to Missouri.

One of the highlights of my year was spending the afternoon with the legislators who attended the listening session during the Missouri State Fair in August. House Agriculture Committee Chair Congressman G.T. Thompson, R-Pa., Congresswoman Monica De La Cruz, R-Texas, and Congressman Jonathan Jackson, D-Ill., stayed the entire day at the fair, learning more about Missouri agriculture.

Missouri State Fair. The Missouri State Fair continues to be a must-attend event. I love visiting with youth exhibitors through the 11 days of the fair, particularly the first-timers. The days get long, no doubt, but talking with young people about their projects always fills my cup.

A terrific concert lineup added to the fair excitement in 2023. Did you ever see so many bell-bottom jeans as that opening Friday night for the Lainey Wilson concert? Even the smallest fans were sporting the bell-bottoms.

Trade missions. Gov. Mike Parson invited me to join him on an international trade mission to Japan. Nations across the globe want Missouri products, and these trips are so valuable for trade of those goods.

This was the first trade mission from Missouri to Japan in decades. Previous trade missions are proving to be fruitful, as companies seek out Missouri products or choose Missouri for expansion. It is always an honor to accompany the governor on these trips and to promote Missouri agriculture.

Look at struggles in production ag

For many people, 2023 was also a year of difficult discussions and decisions. High costs of inputs, fertilizer and fuel affected the bottom line for many producers.

Many factors seem to be driving those costs, including the continued conflicts across the globe and an ongoing labor shortage in those sectors. Here’s hoping those issues clear up heading into the new year.

The drought that plagued much of Missouri in 2023 was the topic of many conversations. Even folks outside of the day-to-day agriculture world talked about the ongoing dryness and how it was affecting producers of all types. Heading into the heart of winter, dry conditions continue. In early December, more than 91% of the state was in a drought status.

The drought, now two years running, has been particularly tough on livestock producers. Creeks and ponds are at low points. Pastures saw little, if any, fall grass growth, leaving many producers to feed hay much earlier than usual.

Many producers sent part, or all, of their herd to market earlier in the year. For those who kept livestock, hay was expensive and difficult to find.

Crop farmers were definitely not immune to the dry weather. Many producers harvested a smaller-than-expected corn crop, if the crop turned out at all. Fortunately, timely rains helped much of Missouri’s soybean crop, which helped yields. Soil health and seed technology were vital in 2023 for our crop farmers.

I appreciate Gov. Parson and my colleagues in state government for working together to make every resource available to producers, including trucking permits for hay and water from state parks. As we all know, there is only so much we as state agencies can do.

What we need is moisture, and a good bit of it. I’ve never been one to wish for snow. But this year, I might have to make an exception.

Look forward to family and farming

For my husband Kevin and me, 2023 will always be special as the year our first grandchild was born. That little girl certainly has us wrapped around her little finger already. We look forward to first steps and first words in 2024.

On the farm, we look forward to lower input costs, healthy livestock and higher margins. We also continue to pray for rain.

Chinn is the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture and lives on a diversified farming operation in northeast Missouri.

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