JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — If you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you probably have noticed you’re paying more for meat, produce, milk and eggs, but are prices expected to drop anytime soon? Those in the agriculture field say there’s no end in sight anytime soon.
Supply plan issues and inflation are taking a toll on Missouri’s number one industry. From equipment to fertilizer, the cost of livestock and crops, along with the shortage of labor, prices are going up.
“I’m not convinced we aren’t even going to push higher prices at consumers going forward,” said Scott Brown, an agriculture expert and professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia. “The cattle industry is poised to be very short on supplies and push those prices even higher.”
Missouri’s agriculture industry brings in more than $93 billion a year, ranking the Show-Me State second in the nation for farms, with 95,000 farms, and second in beef cattle with 2.04 million head.
“My fear is if the economic tanks any, that the consumer cannot pay more,” said Rep. Kent Haden (R-Mexico).
Lawmakers and agriculture experts met Wednesday in their first of many hearings to look at the economic impact the industry is facing. Members heard from leaders in the different agriculture commodity fields about what they are facing.
“Especially at the federal level, we’ll be discussing some things that have a higher impact than we’ve done in the past,” Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill, said. “We’re tasked with the economic impact of Missouri’s agriculture industry in the state, including its contribution to both state and local tax revenue.”
Brown has been studying agriculture for more than 30 years and grew up on a farm. His concern is the impact COVID-19 had on the economy.
“I think it hurt our trade potential,” Brown said. “COVID-19 is not over. I think a lot of us maybe think it’s in the rearview mirror. We’ve heard supply chain distribution until we’re all blue in the face. They do not go away it doesn’t appear, anytime soon.”
Farmers in Missouri are also feeling the effects of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“All of a sudden in a matter of six months you see crude oil prices that are $50, $60 a barrel higher,” Brown said. “You can’t plan appropriately for that kind of risk or volatility.”
Brown said that moving forward, trade is going to be very important for Missouri. The Show-Me State ranks sixth in the nation for hogs with 3.75 million head.
“Another billion pounds of pork left the United States in 2021 as China dealt with the African Swine Fever,” Brown said. “Back in the early 2000s, our export value out of the state of Missouri was about 30% of cash receipts,” Brown said. “In 2020, it was about 45%. We’re going to depend more on exports.”
Missouri’s top commodity is soybeans, followed by corn, cattle and calves, and hogs.
“Oil is in high demand right now,” chief operating officer for Missouri Soybeans Casey Wasser said. “Oil is actually driving the price of soybeans for the first time in our history. Missouri is projected to export 40% of the soybean crop, which is equivalent to 122 million bushels this year alone.”
The Show-Me State’s top five agriculture export partners are Canada, Mexico, China, South Korea, and Japan.
“We may see a lot less backup in some of the ports today than we saw a few months ago, but I don’t think that really has fixed many of the supply constraints we see going on,” Brown said.
Even though consumers might be paying more at checkout, farmers’ pocketbooks are also feeling the rise in prices.
“We’re at a level that I’ve never seen for interest, but our clients are going through sticker shock of changes in the industry like dairy cattle,” president of Clayton Agri-Marketing Tony Clayton told the committee.
Another concern discussed by the committee, the average age of a farmer in Missouri is 58, along with not being able to find young workers.
The committee, made up of lawmakers, the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture Chris Chinn, and the director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Dru Buntin, will continue to meet throughout the year to create legislation for the next session to help the industry.