By Chris Chinn
When I first became Missouri director of agriculture, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on what the department did for farmers and ranchers. On my first day, more than 100 employees in Jefferson City welcomed me to my new home. Little did I know that a few years down the road, I’d consider many of my team members close friends.
Our family environment has allowed me to learn so much over those years directly from them, and we’ve worked hard together to increase our outreach to every farm gate and consumer plate. Their collective passion for agriculture continues to impress me.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture is one of the smallest agencies in state government with a total of 350 employees throughout the state. However, we are responsible for protecting and promoting the state’s No. 1 economic driver — agriculture. It’s a big job that our team is ready to take on every day.
The five divisions are Agriculture Business Development; Animal Health; Grain Inspection and Warehousing; Plant Industries; and Weights, Measures and Consumer Protection. The department also is home to the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority; Missouri State Fair; Missouri Wine and Grape Board; and the state Milk Board.
I want to introduce you to one of those divisions — the Agriculture Business Development division. It is tasked with creating marketing and business opportunities for farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses.
Its work covers topics such as agriculture technology, workforce development, farmers markets, international trade and financial assistance. Within the ABD division exists three programs: Ag Market News, Domestic and International Marketing, and Missouri Grown.
Here’s a look at each program:
Ag Market News. The program is one that many farmers and ranchers may already be familiar with. This team of market reporters works to gather marketing data for livestock, hay and grain in Missouri.
They work in lockstep with USDA to ensure livestock grades are uniform between all cooperative reports. In addition to many daily reports, they compile and publish the popular Weekly Market Summary, which gives producers a look at how commodities performed that week.
In total, the team reports from 23 market locations and publishes 44 unique market reports.
Domestic and International Marketing. Our team employs specialists who work to connect Missouri’s farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses with marketing opportunities in Missouri — nationwide and internationally.
The team has experts in the areas of food and beverage; forest products; livestock production and genetics; and grains, oilseeds and fiber crops. One of its responsibilities is to develop relationships that protect our primary trade markets while also developing secondary markets.
The team maintains an extensive list of trade missions, both domestic and international, that many of its customers benefit from each year. Each year, its trade missions generate millions of dollars in real sales, as well as increased market exposure.
Missouri Grown. The team is the state’s branded program that is focused on helping those who raise or produce Missouri products to make connections with consumers. Its work benefits farmers of all sizes and types, consumers, farmers markets, senior citizens, those seeking farm-to-institution connections and more.
This team also has a tremendous education and outreach capacity as it travels the state promoting agriculture to consumers and influencers. If you are interested in becoming a Missouri Grown member, I encourage you to head to its website and sign up today.
As a team, the division also is responsible for many youth development and community programs, such as the Missouri Agribusiness Academy, Life Sciences Quest and the Building Our American Communities Grant program.
The ABD division is led by Davin Althoff, who raises beef cattle with his family in California, Mo. Davin is passionate about business development, agriculture technology and bridging the gap between producers and consumers.
He previously worked for the Missouri Beef Industry Council, Missouri Department of Economic Development, and the Missouri Senate. Davin and the entire ABD team continue to be tremendous assets to Missouri agriculture.
To learn more about the Agriculture Business Development division or the Missouri Department of Agriculture in general, visit agriculture.mo.gov.
Chinn is the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture and a hog producer from Clarence, Mo.