A new task force established Friday aims to bolster Missouri's agriculture industry.
Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe visited Central Missouri Meat and Sausage in Fulton to sign the Missouri Food, Beverage, and Forest Products Manufacturing Task Force into existence via executive order.
"If we position our state in the right spot, the economic impact is significant," Kehoe said. "And believe me when I say it's high - it's in the billions of dollars."
The 15-member task force, which Kehoe will lead, will be composed of members of commodity and agricultural groups along with producers. It's the result of a study by TEConomy Partners and the Missouri Agricultural Foundation, part of the Show-Me-State Food, Beverage and Forest Products Manufacturing Initiative.
"We're looking for opportunities to increase the processing of agriculture," explained Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Chris Chinn. "We're focusing on what we have and how to retain it in Missouri."
Agriculture is already big business in Missouri, but much of what's grown here leaves the state to be processed. The study found that by doing more in state with what Missouri farmers grow, the economic benefits could be huge.
TEConomy proposed three initiatives:
Regional Food Systems Initiative - providing business and product development and supply-chain services to start-up food processing and manufacturing companies.
Food for Health Initiative - developing Missouri as a leading center in the research, development, testing and production of foods linked to healthful benefits.
Enhanced Commodities Utilization Initiative - adding value to Missouri's commodities, including soybeans, corn, dairy, livestock and eggs.
"This project is about pursuing those initiatives," said Chris Daubert, vice chancellor and dean of the University of Missouri's College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "Together, they could contribute to $25 billion in economic growth and the creation of 70,000 jobs (by 2027)."
Task force members will provide policy and program ideas to the Legislature and to entities such as the Department of Agriculture, MU, the Missouri Farm Bureau and industry groups.
Kehoe said he sees this as a big opportunity for Missouri's family farms.
"In the next three decades, we're going to have to figure out how to double (the world's agricultural output)," he said. "Currently, Missouri is in an incredible position to be a leader in finding out ways to continue to feed the world and get additional production out of the resources we have. We can put our best foot forward and really make sure Missouri's family farms continue to lead the effort in productivity and helping change the world."
He touted Central Missouri Meat and Sausage as an excellent example of what he hopes to encourage.
"They are a Buy Missouri company," he said. "They buy local, they source local, and we love that in the lieutenant governor's office."
Cole Hawkins, part-owner of CMMS, said that by working directly with farmers, he can cut out middlemen and deliver a quality product for a lower price.
"We want you to know the person who took the time to raise the animal and raise it right," he said.