The Director’s Tent at the Missouri State Fair was packed Thursday morning for the 64th annual Governor’s Ham Breakfast, and the focus, as it has been throughout the 2016 Fair, was on agriculture and youth.
The morning began with citizens and plenty of politicians eating their ham breakfasts and bidding on the Grand Champion and Reserve Champion Hams and the Grand Champion Slab of Bacon, among other items. Both Gov. Jay Nixon and Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Richard Fordyce addressed the crowd.
Fordyce talked about a variety of topics, but toward the end of his remarks he reminded attendees what the Fair is all about.
“We talk about youth in agriculture all the time and I think that may be one of the most important things that we do. We work with FFA, we work with 4-H, we work with commodity organizations and the programs they have. We work with Farm Bureau and the programs they have for young people,” he said. “We’re the No. 1 industry in the state of Missouri and if we are going to continue to stay at that position, we are going to have to do everything it takes to continue to develop leadership in our young people, continue to ignite that passion they have for agriculture and continue to support them. … In agriculture maybe the most important thing that we raise may be our young people and it’s critically important we support them every single time we get a chance.”
Nixon noted that agriculture is the “backbone of our economy” and that he and the rest of the state have worked with farm families through tough times, such as flooding and drought during his tenure as governor.
There’s no mistaking Nixon is proud to be a Missourian and Missouri’s governor as he listed the records Missouri has set and broken in agriculture.
“For the first half of 2016, our Missouri exports stood at $7.2 billion in the first half. I don’t have to remind you the most significant portion of that are livestock raised, products made and reflected at this Fair,” he said. “In 2014, corn producers in the state of Missouri averaged more bushels per acre than any state in America. Take that Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas,” he continued. “… We are also still the home of the soybean production record.”
During a press conference after the breakfast, Nixon answered questions regarding what he’s most proud about in the agriculture industry as his time as governor comes to an end.
“For this facility itself, we have invested in it. I think a lot of state fairs around the country have decided when they saw tough times they were going to become just rock shows, rock concerts. We took a different path. We said we’re going to go back to the roots of agriculture. We’re going to have shows, but going back to that root of agriculture,” he said. “… As far as agriculture I couldn’t be more proud of the strength and the embracing science we’ve had. To be the state that has the most productive corn farmers in America, that has the world record soybean yield, that has No. 3 in cow calf production, that continues to lead in exports, it’s been wonderful.”
He noted that during his time spent with farm families he’s “been taught the deep values of rural Missouri.”
“As a small note to that, when I came in as governor in 2009-10, economy was in a real pickle. If it wouldn’t have been for agriculture and commodity prices at that time, it would have been difficult to even do what we did budget wise,” he said. “… I’ll forever as governor dealing with the economy be indebted to the rural parts of the state that made those investments in 2009.”
As the Ham Breakfast is traditionally filled with legislators, 2016 was no different, especially because of the upcoming general election. Nixon was asked about his thoughts on the state campaigns so far.
“I think it’s better than the national. I’m glad folks are beginning to talk about issues,” he said. “They’ve had their introductory part. I’ve quite frankly been a little heartened these folks running for office locally are actually talking about issues and what they want to do with the future of this state. I think that’s missing on the national scene when each day is a reality show about what people are saying or mistakes.”
He added that he thinks Missouri will have a good general election turnout, encouraging Missourians to have a better turnout than the 25 percent statewide average in the August primary.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.