Hofherr, escorted by Assistant Director Donald Propst, who is from the Bootheel, was on a two-day tour to learn more about the area's agricultural operations. It was also an opportunity to meet with political leaders and locals involved in agriculture.
"There is so much going on down here," noted Hofherr during a stop at the Riceland Plant, located at the New Madrid County Port. "There is no substitute for getting out of the office and seeing it for yourself."
Earlier in the day the state officials toured State Rep. Lanie Black's Mississippi County farm and chicken operation. Also at that stop was State Rep. Peter Myers, who chairs the House's Agriculture Committee.
Hofherr said he was learning about various needs of the area.
"These are crazy times," Hofherr observed. "The state doesn't have much money, the federal government is operating in a deficit. We have to be very careful in targeting our projects and spending."
Hofherr said the state government must work in partnership with other government groups, schools and industry to promote economic development. The state's agriculture director commented on area efforts to develop value-added industries such as an ethanol plant and a soybean oil processing facility.
He noted Riceland leaders joined him and other government officials on a recent tour of Cuba. He said he is in hopes of opening that country as a potential market for Missouri's products.
Ed Williams and Greg Hall who led the state officials on the tour of the Riceland plant at the New Madrid County Port, explained how the plant already ships rice to Haiti, South America, Western Europe along with U.S. markets. With the number of acres of rice increasing each year, up a projected 6 percent in 2004 to 186,000 acres in Southeast Missouri, Riceland's local plant is expected to process at least half of the state's crop.
"Missouri's acreage is growing and expected to grow more," noted Williams.
Hofherr also walked along the county's harbor, used by Riceland to ship rice to its markets.
"I was pleased that he saw how the ports and farming are linked," said Timmie Lynn Hunter, director of the New Madrid County Port Authority. "Also he saw the work under way and while we have a long way to go, we are trying to cater to the farming industry."
She used the director's visit as an opportunity to show a new road under construction at the New Madrid County Port. Also she used it as an opportunity to point out other needs to Hofherr, who is a member of the Delta Regional Authority which funded some of the work now under way.
Discussing current funding possibilities, Hofherr and Hunter agreed the current energy bill before Congress will do little for ports and transportation. Hunter did say it should include continued funding for local dredging.
Also Hofherr briefly discussed efforts to curtail the flow of the Missouri River. While he said he believed it would not impact the barge business this year as much as originally feared, Hofherr did predict the matter would have to be decided by the courts.