Farm Progress

How Missouri counties are welcoming farmers and agribusinesses with the Agri-Ready program.

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist

December 14, 2016

4 Min Read

It takes the guesswork out of farming in his county. That is how Carroll County Commissioner Nelson Heil views the "Agri-Ready County" distinction from Missouri Farmers Care.

 

"A number of years ago, we were being pressured to come up with regulations for how farming should be done in our county," says Heil, the Carroll County presiding commissioner. At that time, the commission was pushing back on extra regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). "We said our regulations would parallel those of [the Department of Natural Resources] in regards to CAFO with setbacks." But Heil admits the pressure was, at times, tough.

 

"There are counties in different states that have enacted laws that would strangle any type of agriculture," he says. He pointed to those enacting rules regarding growing genetically modified crops or animal-unit limits. "We want to stay away from that."

 

With the new Agri-Ready designation, he says, people have confidence that they can operate their farms according to the law — and not have to worry about being tripped up by a surprise public hearing to further regulated agriculture. "Our county is sticking by the state regulations and Agri-Ready promise."

 

Heil is a farmer, the third generation to farm the land in this west-central Missouri community. It is his 22nd year as presiding commissioner. At 77, he has seen many changes in agriculture, and now more than ever understands a need for protecting his farming operation for the future.

 

county_agri_ready_2_636172403322723647.jpgTEACHING AG: Engaging students in understanding what commodities are grown in Carroll County is an important part of the program.

"We have to realize that agriculture is our bread and butter," he says. "It is what our economy is based on here." He says the Agri-Ready designation safeguards farmers' and ranchers' interests in Carroll County. The county was the second in the state to achieve the designation, right behind Audrain County.

 

The program
Missouri Farmers Care launched the Agri-Ready County designation program in 2015. According to Ashley McCarty, MFC executive director, the program is a joint effort by Missouri’s farming and agriculture community to stand together for the men and women who provide the food and jobs on which our communities depend.

 

 

The Agri-Ready County designation is a voluntary program that recognizes counties that actively support Missouri agriculture, through establishing an environment and county policies that are conducive to agricultural business success.

 

A county commission must apply to be designated as an Agri-Ready County. According to McCarty, MFC reviews county ordinances and other activities to determine a county’s willingness and intent to support agriculture, and then grants Agri-Ready status accordingly.

 

county_agri_ready_3_636172403322723647.jpgEXPLAINING CROPS: FFA members Allie Lock (left) and Cierra Famuliner explain to third-graders just what crops grown in their county help create pizza.

MFC and its member partners work with designated counties to promote growth and development of farming, ranching, agribusiness and agricultural processing in the county. "There is no cost to counties to become an Agri-Ready-designated county," she adds. And they are finding help with promotion from farmers, youth in agriculture and agribusinesses.

 

Youthful push
For Peggy McGaugh, Carroll County clerk, seeing the interaction among youth, agribusiness and farmers to promote the agriculture industry is the best part of being an Agri-Ready County.

During the summer months, the county had a booth at the local fair where individuals could guess how many soybeans were in a jar. "It promoted ag in our own county," she says, "and it promoted the people growing soybeans in our area.

 

 

This fall, MFC and the county took its message of agriculture's importance into Carrollton Elementary School. "Speakers in our area showed how agribusiness and agriproducts in Carroll County are used to make pizza," she says. The Carrollton FFA used curriculum from MFC's Agriculture Education on the Move to teach third-graders about the production of wheat that went into a pizza crust, the vegetables that were a basis for the sauce, and the meat used for toppings — all produced in Carroll County. The lessons culminated in a pizza party for students and presenters.

 

"It was so refreshing to see the older students interacting with the younger students," McGaugh says. "The younger kids idolized the older students. They were able to show them so many things and keep their attention."

 

McGaugh says the commission hopes to be able to offer the program in more schools in the county in the coming years. "It is all about showing what type of agriculture is going on in in our county." There are many different lesson plans available at no cost to schools.

 

Ultimately, all three agree that the Agri-Ready designation is about providing opportunities for farmers and businesses to operate in an efficient manner, while sharing their work is with the local community. "With so many people removed from the farm," McGaugh says, "we need the community to see just how important agriculture is to their daily lives."

 

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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