A pair of proposals have been heard in the House Ag Policy Committee that would replace the Governor-appointed Director of Agriculture with an elected Secretary of Agriculture, and roll the Department of Agriculture into the Office of Agriculture.
Their sponsor, Representative Jay Houghton (R-Martinsburg), says they were mainly meant to generate discussion.
“Basically that’s what I want. I want discussion. I want people to start talking about it now. I think it’s something that is really important to rural Missouri.
The discussion in the committee was largely about opposition. Representative Linda Black (D-Desloge) was one of several lawmakers concerned that an election could result in someone being the figurehead of the state’s agriculture industry, who doesn’t have that industry’s best interests in mind.
“My concern is the cluster of population in the state of Missouri comes from our urban cores and that is enough to carry a vote in the state of Missouri for an elected position, so most of the agricultural Missouri doesn’t carry that vote.”
Black’s husband is the current state Director of Agriculture, Jon Hagler.
The Missouri Farm Bureau’s Director of State and Local Governmental Affairs, Leslie Holloway, reminded the committee that just three years ago the Humane Society of the United States successfully backed an initiative to change the state’s dog breeding industry.
“We do have real concerns about what happens if you do have a vote with urban areas and what kind of money comes into the state from interests that are not supportive of Missouri agriculture.”
Missouri Soybean Association CEO Dale Ludwig likes the idea, though, and says he has “more faith” in urban voters.
“What is the likelihood of having someone elected that wouldn’t really represent Missouri agriculture? I guess after serious thought, we’re just as likely, or more likely in my opinion, to have a governor that for whatever reason appoints someone for political payoff, or whatever might be, that is more likely to be outside that realm.”
The plan is not expected to come to a vote in the committee but its chairman, Representative Bill Reiboldt (R-Neosho) says he expects the issue to keep coming up in future sessions.