Gov. Mike Parson visited southeast Missouri during one of his first weeks in office to speak with local members of the Missouri Farm Bureau. The stop was one of nine “listening tour” stops across the state.
Parson answered questions on transportation, rural broadband, water rights, agriculture education, a lack of skilled labor and security for young farmers. Parson said he heard similar things throughout the state, regardless of industry.
“We’ve been through some troubling months in the state, but really our job now is to go back out there to ensure Missourians everything is going to be OK; the government is going to function and we’re going to move forward,” Parson said.
The governor stressed that his office is focusing on two areas, infrastructure and workforce development.
“We have to do something with infrastructure in the state of Missouri,” Parson said. “We cannot keep kicking that can down the road.”
He mentioned visiting southeast Missouri earlier and seeing bridges closed due to neglect. Parson said it becomes an issue when school buses and emergency response vehicles can’t get to where they need to go.
The governor added that rural broadband needs to be addressed along with transportation infrastructure. Parson said he has spoken with the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, and the Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, on the subject.
“It’s a big undertaking, but it’s something we really have to try to figure out how we can get that done for rural Missouri,” Parson said. “… Most people don’t realize some of us are still on dial up, or we don’t have any at all.”
When it comes to workforce development, Parson said he believes in universities, tech schools and community colleges working together to make sure young Missourians are prepared for the workforce.
He added that all industries, especially agriculture, have changed because of technology and students need to be prepared, whether with four-year degrees or alternate options.
“If we truly want young farmers to take our place, we have to make sure that they’re educated and they’re prepared to be farmers,” Parson said.
Parson, who is a farmer himself, said “it is going to be a good day for farmers” and that he hopes to work with farmers everyday to make Missouri better for the next generation.
“It is our time to make sure we make Missouri a better state so our children and our grandchildren will have the same opportunities that every one of you have had here today,” Parson said to the Missouri Farm Bureau members.
Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said Parson will be a governor who listens and cares. He said hundreds, if not thousands of Missouri farmers consider Parson a personal friend. Hurst agreed that it’s “a great day for agriculture in the state of Missouri.”