An unanswered question for Missouri State Senators heading into the upcoming session is who’ll head the important Agriculture Committee.

State Sen. Brian Munzlinger (R-Williamstown)

Republican Brian Munzlinger of Williamstown is retiring after serving his eight-year term limit in the chamber. The lifelong farmer has advice for whoever takes his place – have an open mind and take the responsibility seriously. “Listen, take a lot of notes and don’t be afraid to step up to the plate, because as agriculture it’s very important,” said Munzlinger. He says he has not made a recommendation to Senate leadership about who should be named chairman.

Agriculture has an annual $88.4 billion economic impact on Missouri according to figures compiled by the state. The largest commodities are soybeans, which account for nearly a quarter of the state’s agricultural income, followed by corn, and cattle and calves. Missouri’s top 5 export partners are Canada, Mexico, the European Union, China, and Japan. Pork products and soybean meal are the state’s largest agriculture exports.

Munzlinger says the next Agriculture Committee chairman should have an appreciation for the industry’s importance, even if that lawmaker doesn’t have a farming background. “One thing I always told everybody is, ‘I don’t care if you’re a farmer or not, but you eat every day, and that’s provided by agriculture,” Munzlinger said.

One of the northeastern Missourian’s major accomplishments relating to agriculture in recent memory is his help guiding through the legalization of industrial hemp in Missouri. Some lawmakers in the past had viewed such a move as a step toward legalizing marijuana. The bill that was signed into law in 2018 contained language stating that the Missouri Highway Patrol “may perform aerial surveillance” to ensure that marijuana plants are not being cultivated near industrial hemp.

Munzlinger thinks it’ll be important for whoever succeeds him to know that the Agriculture Committee chairman sits on numerous boards. “I did ask the incoming (Senate) President Pro-Tem to please make sure that the new agriculture chairman, whoever it is, knows that he would be appreciated to serve on those boards or his designee,” Munzlinger.

Munzlinger is a member of the Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Corn Growers Association, Missouri Soybean Association, and the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association.

The Missouri Agriculture Department has a roughly $40 million budget. Among its recent financial challenges has been securing funds to properly support its Plant Industries Division which oversees pesticides used in in the industry. One pesticide, in particular, dicamba, is known to have damaged neighboring crops. In September, the Agriculture Department was seeking $1.46 million in additional funding for the Plant Industries Division.

(Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth contributed to this report)