Agri-Ready County Designation to Build on Cape Girardeau County’s Agricultural Strengths

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(Jefferson City, Mo.) – Expressing support for agricultural development and education, Cape Girardeau County has applied for and been granted Agri-Ready County Designation by Missouri Farmers Care (MFC), a coalition of 45 leading Missouri agricultural groups. This designation identifies counties that create an environment conducive to agricultural entrepreneurship and opportunity which actively support Missouri’s largest industry.

“Cape Girardeau County is proud to be an Agri-Ready partner,” said Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy. “We welcome all kinds of economic development and especially projects related to agriculture. Our partners have worked hard to help us earn this designation, and we thank them for their dedication to agriculture!”

In 2016, the county’s 1,139 farm and ranch families and agribusinesses sold over $830 million in agricultural products, translating into $353.7 million in value added to the local economy. Agriculture, forestry and other related industries support 3,717 local jobs, according to the 2016 Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) Economic Contributions of Agriculture and Forestry Study. The county’s agricultural strength is anchored in the value of paper product and container manufacturing, soybean and corn production, and beef cattle farming and ranching.

“Cape Girardeau County serves as an economic hub for southeast Missouri. With a diversified economy which includes manufacturing, healthcare and education, agriculture is still the primary economic driver,” said Ashley McCarty, executive director of Missouri Farmers Care. “We have been impressed by the passion, professionalism and drive of Cape County leaders in the months we’ve been discussing Agri-Ready. We look forward to working with these leaders to build upon the county’s existing strengths. Agri-Ready can open doors to new opportunities on and off the farm.”

Through the Agri-Ready program, MFC will partner with county leaders to advance local agricultural enterprise, promote the county as a conducive location for business expansion and enhance workforce readiness for agricultural careers. The collaboration encourages participation in the MDA’s voluntary Agricultural Stewardship Assurance Program, recognizing stewardship at the farm level.

“Agri-Ready Designation is important to let the community and the county know that farmers have a story,” said Larry Miller, Cape County rancher and Farm Bureau vice-president. “Agri-Ready is going to help us tell our story and connect business, farmers, educators, community leaders, and the general public to share their ideas and success. Together we can build a better agriculture, more economic growth and more opportunities for our children and others to enjoy and gain the benefits of the largest industry in the state of Missouri. We appreciate the leadership of the Cape County Commissioners!”

MFC will recruit local FFA and 4-H students to expand on the existing reach of Agriculture Education on the Move™ in the county’s third-grade classrooms. Building on the work of MFC regional educators, these student leaders will present lessons throughout 10weeks on agricultural careers, crop and livestock production through engaging, hands-on activities and lessons while developing their speaking and leadership skills.

“Ag Education on the Move makes connections for students on ways agriculture is related to products they use every day,” says Susan Ahrens, MFC regional educator in Cape Girardeau. “Students want to understand how farmers do their work. They ask fabulous questions about production methods and products. Our hands-on activities like making butter and tasting soymilk bring the information to life, and they go home excited to share their new knowledge with their families.”

MFC’s Agri-Ready County Designation launched in December 2015 as a voluntary connection between Missouri counties and MFC. According to the MDA, Missouri agriculture provides 378,232 jobs and added $88.4 billion in net value to the state’s economy in 2016, making agriculture the largest sector of the economy. Agri-Ready County Designation recognizes and builds on the impact of family farmers and agri-businesses as key contributors to our economy and the quality of life in our communities.

Cape Girardeau County joins Atchison, Audrain, Barry, Benton, Bollinger, Butler, Carroll, Chariton, Cole, Cooper, Crawford, Dallas, Dent, Dunklin, Franklin, Gasconade, Iron, Johnson, Laclede, Lafayette, Lawrence, Lincoln, Madison, Marion, McDonald, Mercer, Miller, Moniteau, Montgomery, Morgan, New Madrid, Newton, Oregon, Osage, Pike, Polk, Randolph, Reynolds, Saline, Scott, Shannon, St. Clair, Stoddard, Sullivan, Washington, Wayne, Webster and Wright counties in achieving Agri-Ready Designation.

Counties wishing to apply for Agri-Ready County Designation must meet program requirements, including no ordinances regulating agriculture more stringent than state law and support of agricultural stewardship, growth and opportunities. After application is received from the county commission, the MFC Agri-Ready Review Committee examines any local ordinances, regulations and statements of support prior to awarding designation.

For more information, view the 2016 Economic Contributions of Agriculture and Forestry in Cape Girardeau County presented by the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri Farm Bureau and Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority.