JEFFERSON CITY (AP) -- Fred Ferrell, a southeast Missouri farmer who multiplied a few cattle into a sprawling and diversified agriculture business, was named the next state agriculture director by Gov.-elect Matt Blunt on Thursday.
Ferrell, 63, of Charleston, said the biggest challenges for Missouri farmers include ensuring food safety and bolstering river shipping. Ferrell said he also wants focus on promoting Missouri agricultural products.
''We have some clouds on the horizon, with the safety and soundness of our food being one of the issues,'' said Ferrell, citing Missouri's No. 2 ranking in cow-calf operations and the national attention being paid to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease. So far, no cases of the disease have been found in Missouri.
Ferrell, who bought his first four cows while a senior the University of Missouri-Columbia, now has about 150 cows and also raises corn, wheat and soybeans on 3,000 acres that he farms with his son. He also owns Mid-Valley Irrigation Inc., which is based in Charleston with offices in Kennett and Dyersburg, Tenn.
His appointment as agriculture director is Ferrell's first government job and is subject to confirmation by the Senate.
To serve as deputy agriculture director, Blunt named former Rep. Matt Boatright, R-Sedalia, who owns Maplewood Acres Farm and has about 140 cattle. Boatright, 39, served in the House from 1995-2003.
The appointments were announced at Missouri Farm Bureau headquarters, an indication of the key role the insurance and lobbying group will play in Blunt's administration. Blunt and both of his agriculture appointees are among the Farm Bureau's 103,000 members.
The Farm Bureau's political action committees endorsed Blunt and helped organize some of his rural campaign events. The Farm Bureau also hosted an election eve rally at its headquarters for Blunt and other Republican candidates. And Blunt counts Farm Bureau director Charles Kruse among his friends.
''They're going to have a voice in my administration, and there is a reason we're here today make this announcement, because of my high regard and respect for the Farm Bureau,'' Blunt said. All of Blunt's other appointments have been announced at the Capitol.
The agriculture appointments are the last Blunt intends to make before being sworn in Monday as governor.
Ferrell becomes the second Bootheel resident Blunt has picked to lead a state department. The first was Michael Keathley of Bernie, whom Blunt tabbed last month as commissioner of the Office of Administration.
Blunt spokesman Spence Jackson said several of Holden's department leaders will continue in their roles on an interim basis. They include Labor and Industrial Relations Director Catherine Leapheart, Public Safety Director Charles Jackson, Social Services acting director Steve Renne and Health and Senior Services acting director Ronald Cates.
Some information for this article was provided by Marc Powers with the Southeast Missouri News Service.