Sen. Justin Brown’s Legislative Column for Sept. 25, 2020

Reaping the Benefits of Agriculture

Our world has changed a lot in the past six months. At times like these, it’s reassuring to see familiar sights and remember some things remain the same, despite uncertainty around us. Those of us who work in agriculture see these comforting signs all around us. As I write this, my fellow farmers are making final preparations for the work ahead as corn and soybeans are nearing time for harvest. Soon we’ll be racing the sun to bring in the crops and deliver our yields to market.

As fall harvest season approaches, now is a great time to remember the contribution agriculture makes to our state. Many folks tend to think of agriculture as just row crops and livestock. It is that, but also so much more. It includes specialty crops, such as fruits and nuts, forestry products and food production. Missouri is also home to some of the nation’s leading biotechnology and plant sciences companies, a fact that certainly played a role in the USDA’s recent decision to relocate two of its research divisions to Missouri.  All told, agriculture contributes nearly $90 billion to our state’s economy every year. That’s about 15 percent of the state’s total economic output.

According to a recent study produced by the Missouri Agriculture Foundation and University of Missouri Extension, there were 107,000 Missourians employed in jobs directly tied to agriculture in 2019. When you consider all the jobs related to agriculture – food processing, manufacturing, plant science and industries that rely on agricultural products – nearly 400,000 Missourians owe at least part of their livelihood to agriculture. In the five counties of the 16th Senatorial District, more than 7,200 people are employed in fields somehow related to farm products, according to a 2016 study prepared for the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

Agriculture is big business in Missouri. USDA statistics show our state is the third-largest producer of beef cows in the nation. We rank No. 6 in turkeys, seventh in hogs and tenth in both broiler chickens and horses. Missouri is America’s seventh-largest producer of soybeans, and we’re No. 10 in corn. Only three states produce more rice than Missouri, and we’re America’s fifth-largest supplier of cotton. All told, there are more than 95,000 farms in Missouri. Only Texas has more farms.

The financial impact of agriculture on Missouri’s economy is huge. We sell $375 million worth of pork each year, nearly $250 million in corn and $190 million in soybeans. Forest products account for more than $200 million in sales. These industries bring in more than $2 billion in tax revenue to the state and provide jobs and security for people all across Missouri.

The corn harvest will be in full swing soon, and soybeans will follow shortly after. As you travel the state and see farmers bringing in crops, I hope everyone will take a moment to consider all that agriculture brings to Missouri. The next time you get caught behind a combine moving from field to field, I hope you’ll whisper a word of thanks for Missouri’s farmers. Not only does agriculture put food on our tables, it delivers jobs and prosperity that benefit all of us. Stay safe out there, fellow farmers. And let’s pray the harvest of 2020 is bountiful. We could use some good news for a change.

It’s my honor to serve as your senator for the 16th District. If you have questions or need any assistance, please call my office at 573-751-5713 or log onto my webpage at for more information.