Missouri Gov. Mike Parson addressed concerns of area agriculture leaders in a listening session June 13 at Southeast Missouri State University’s David M. Barton Agriculture Research Center.
Parson, a cattle farmer from Bolivar, Missouri, said he is proud to be both a farmer and governor, touting agriculture as the number one industry in the state.
“I know how important this area of the state is to agriculture,” he said.
In a roundtable discussion with area members of the Missouri Farm Bureau, area legislators, Southeast President Carlos Vargas and Dr. Julie Weathers, chair of the Southeast Department of Agriculture, Parson took questions on a range of issues impacting the agriculture community. They included the importance of infrastructure and broadband access, the need for safe water and skilled labor, financial security for farmers, agriculture education and the future of agriculture programs for youth.
Parson said Missouri needs good roads, bridges, rail lines and ports to get its agriculture products to market and warehouses, pointing to the condition of secondary roads as those in greatest need of improvement.
“We can’t keep kicking this can down the road.” he said. “We have to address this issue to prosper and grow.”
In addition, he advocated for the private sector to partner with Missouri colleges and universities to prepare students with the tools they need to successfully enter the workforce.
“You are going to see a huge emphasis on that out of the governor’s office,” he said.
Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University, said, “We are a committed and willing partner. We want to be part of the solution. We are very committed to training and preparation for students to be successful.”
Vargas said the University should develop academic programs to meet the needs of the region and that the “intellectual capital around the region needs to be utilized” in the creation of new programs, such as water resource management, to meet emerging trends.
The governor also said he is supportive of educating youth about agriculture, citing declines in people pursuing agriculture-related professions.
“We need young people to get involved in farming,” he said, adding that the financial structure needs to be examined to make agriculture an affordable profession to pursue.
Dr. Julie Weathers, chair of the Department of Agriculture at Southeast, told Parson and agriculture leaders on hand that Southeast boasts a 98 percent job placement rate among its agriculture graduates.
“This is their future, and we are excited to be a part of it,” she said.
Parson also advocated for broadband access in rural areas in response to a comment from a farmer who said it is difficult to run a farming operation in an area where internet access is “mediocre at best.”
“Broadband is a huge issue, and we need to figure out how to get it implemented for rural Missouri,” Parson said. “We will do everything we can to make it move forward.”
Parson concluded the listening session, saying, “It is our time to make sure we make Missouri a better state so our children have the same opportunities” we did.
**Top Photo Caption: From left are Dr. Julie Weathers, chair of the Southeast Department of Agriculture; Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University; Missouri First Lady Teresa Parson; and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.