New Missouri Dept. of Agriculture director shares his vision with CAFNR students

Richard Fordyce, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, told CAFNR students there has never been a time when things looked better for agriculture.

Fordyce was on campus April 15 speaking at an event sponsored by a group of student leaders in the College’s Division of Applied Social Sciences. The DASS Executive Board consists of the presidents of Collegiate Farm Bureau, Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow and Agricultural Economics Club. The board plans two events a year: one social event and one professional development event. This year the board invited Fordyce to speak for its professional development event because it not only benefited DASS students, but CAFNR as a whole.

“We thought his background and vision for the future of Missouri agriculture would be great for students to hear,” said Courtney Leeper, Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow president.

Fordyce is a fourth-generation farmer from Bethany, Mo., and has held leadership roles in agriculture on the local, state and national level for more than 20 years. These leadership roles have included positions in Harrison County Farm Bureau, including serving as its president from 1993-2010, and various boards and committees of the Missouri Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation. Fordyce has also held leadership positions with the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, Agricultural Leaders of Tomorrow, University of Missouri Extension and the Northwest Missouri State Fair. Gov. Jay Nixon appointed Fordyce as director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture this past December.

“The really cool thing about being the Director of Agriculture is that on December 18 I was a full-time farmer,” Fordyce said. “I realized quickly on December 20, I was no longer a full-time farmer.”

Fordyce said the position as the director of the Dept. of Agriculture was not even on his radar before his appointment in December. He quickly had to learn how the department and each of its five divisions worked. He said he truly practiced “learning on the job.”

While working with Missouri senators, he has learned that their knowledge of agriculture spans from wide knowledge to zero knowledge. Fordyce said the most important part of agriculture in Missouri districts is what people think about three times a day: food.  However, many senators have never thought about agriculture in those terms for their districts. Fordyce stressed that there is still a lot of education that needs to be done.

Fordyce and Missouri farmers realize that when working in agriculture, some things don’t go perfectly, and they have to accept that.

“That is the resiliency of Missouri agriculture,” Fordyce said.

Patience, thick skin and a good background are crucial to working in production agriculture, according to Fordyce. He believes his production background has helped him in his position, and Missouri needs more representatives with a production background.

“I think what I bring to the table is a practical knowledge of agriculture,” Fordyce said.

Senior animal science major Kelly Jahn came to listen to Fordyce on Tuesday night purely out of curiosity. As a member of the swine club, Jahn was impressed by Fordyce’s knowledge of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus. Jahn was also impressed by his humble beginnings.

“It’s inspiring to see how a farmer can run a large organization like the Missouri Department of Agriculture,” Jahn said.

Fordyce’s upbeat outlook and personality made Jahn and many CAFNR students feel good about being connected to the agriculture industry.

Elizabeth Johnson

About the Author Elizabeth Johnson

I am pursuing a degree in science and agricultural journalism with an emphasis in agricultural marketing. I hope to work in corporate public relations post graduation. I have a passion for communications and anything and everything Mizzou. My dad is a CAFNR alumnus with a degree in agricultural economics, and my mom graduated from the College of Education. Both of my parents grew up on family operated farms and in rural agricultural communities. This was the main factor in my decision to pursue a degree from CAFNR. I wrote for Corner Post during Fall 2013 and had no writing experience prior to that. I now have a new appreciation for investigative journalism and am excited to continue practicing it.