(Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- About 20 local farmers and agriculture leaders participated in an agricultural roundtable discussion at the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday afternoon.
"It was about all aspects of Missouri agriculture," said Missy Marshall, executive director of the SACC.
The roundtable was part of Gov. Matt Blunt's statewide agriculture tour. Also present was Katie Smith, who was recently appointed as agriculture director.
"This is kind of her way of getting into the different areas of the state and learning about their issues," Marshall said.
Past state representative Peter Myers was invited to the discussion. "They listened to the comments of the producers that were there," he said of Blunt and Smith.
He also said other attendees represented "a pretty good cross-section of bootheel agriculture."
Several concerns were raised at the roundtable, at which participation was invitation-only.
Mike Geske, a Matthews farmer who is also president of the Missouri Corn Growers Association, talked about market misconceptions dealing with corn.
"Many people think that corn-based ethanol is a mature industry and it's not -- it's not yet able to stand on its own," Geske said. "We're still in a rapid expansion phase and we have new plants that are expensive to build."
During his term in office, Blunt has exhibited support for agriculture. He has secured full funding for ethanol and biodiesel production incentives and established a requirement all gasoline have a 10 percent ethanol blend by 2008.
"The jobs at the renewable fuel plants are often the best jobs in town, or some of the best," he said.
Also addressed were concerns of the domino effect caused by the price of fuel.
"Farmers are being hammered in the major media press on this food v. fuel issue and the prices of food," Geske said.
However, in looking at numbers last week, milk, when compared to prices to years ago, is actually cheaper now, although the price of corn has doubled. "And those food costs are pretty much across the board," Geske said.
Another issue brought up was the dwindling number of young farmers. "That is a concern," Marshall said, "because we don't want to lose that part of our economy."