The annual Governor’s Ham Breakfast focused on moving the Missouri agriculture industry forward, reaching the topic of international trade.
The Director’s Tent on the Missouri State Fairgrounds was full Thursday morning for the annual event, with plenty of well-known Missourians eating eggs, ham and peaches, including candidates for governor and lieutenant governor. Gov. Jay Nixon spoke to the crowd about Missouri’s growing agriculture industry, and his plans to expand the state’s international relations.
“That Missouri farmers compete internationally,” Nixon told reporters after the breakfast when asked to sum up his remarks. “That they have understood that if we’re going to win this economic future, that’s going to be led by international competition in trade and technology, and I’ve been very proud with the director and others to sell Missouri agriculture goods around the world and I think we’re going to continue seeing those markets moving up.”
Nixon spoke about a recent trip to Canada to work on a trade agreement with Alberta. He noted during his Ham Breakfast remarks that the State of Missouri does $600 million in sales to Canada each year, with Canada selling Missouri about $500 million, much of that in the agriculture sector.
He told reporters the purpose for the trip was to meet with energy companies as well as talk agriculture, and he thinks these bilateral conversations will continue.
“I wanted to make sure we understood how we could work together to be more energy efficient, more energy safe and work together with Canada, so (energy was) a significant portion of what we were dealing with, other than the agreement with Calgary, which is to have bilateral agreements, both in trade — they don’t grow what we grow, so we sell them corn, we sell them beans …” Nixon said. “… interestingly enough when I met with the head of government there they were very interested in some of the things we’re doing with mental health and in law enforcement.”
Nixon said the state will “continue to be aggressive” when it comes to helping Missouri farmers receive federal insurance to help cover their losses due to heavy rains this summer.
“In the agriculture sector, a lot of crops didn’t get planted this year. We don’t have final numbers in, that will probably be over a million and a half acres that didn’t make it in, especially in the soy bean side, that’s going to be a little bit of a challenge, but you can’t make a profit on a crop you don’t plant. So we’re watching it very carefully,” Nixon said.
“But with the disaster declaration, both on the agriculture side to assist as well as the public resources side to get bridges rebuilt, roads rebuilt. We’re going to be working with communities and counties out there to make sure their infrastructure is rebuilt and strong, and on the agriculture side we’ll be continuing to try to work with them.”
Nixon opted out of attending the 2014 breakfast to visit Ferguson, as the police officer-involved death of Michael Brown had happened just days before. He said he thought the state has made progress since August 2014, although more progress is still needed, and that the situation has “opened up conversations between individuals that wouldn’t have happened before.”
“It’s been quite a year. We’ve listened, we’ve learned and while there’s still progress to be made I think we are making progress,” Nixon said. “I’m very heartened that the legislature passed historic municipal court reform that’s going to make a dramatic difference. … I think the work Director of Public Safety Lane Roberts is doing post-commission to modernize our training and to up the level of training for our police is important. I do think Missourians have not backed away from this challenge. These are difficult issues.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.