About the Missouri Department of Agriculture
"To serve, promote, and protect the agricultural producers, processors, and consumers of Missouri’s food, fuel, and fiber products."
A Proud History
Missouri has a proud agricultural tradition. In fact, the statue adorning the dome of the State Capitol—often mistaken as Lady Liberty—is that of Ceres, goddess of growing vegetation. The first farms in Missouri were established around 1725 by French settlers in the Ste. Genevieve area. In 1811 an event of great magnitude shook the small farming communities—the New Madrid earthquake (recorded as the worst earthquake in North American history). Devastated villagers petitioned congress for assistance and were granted land in the “Boone’s Lick” area that runs parallel to the Missouri River. The area proved prosperous, and Missouri agriculture became more productive and diverse. A decade later, in the 1820's, agricultural societies for the promotion and exhibition of agricultural products began to appear throughout Missouri’s counties.
By the 1860's Missouri’s rapidly expanding agricultural industry needed leadership and assistance. As a result, the precursor organization to the department was formed in 1865. Known as the Missouri State Board of Agriculture, the 10 member organization is best remembered for its “Farmer’s Institutes.” Similar to the work of the modern-day University Extension, the state board endeavored to reach out and educate farmers and farm families. The state board served in cooperation with the Missouri State Horticultural Society and later helped form the Missouri College of Agriculture. All three organizations worked to educate the agricultural community until the 1933 re-organization.
In 1933, the state board was abolished and a new era of agricultural leadership began in Missouri. The State Department of Agriculture was formed, with responsibility for regulatory functions, while the College of Agriculture was given primary responsibility for research and education.
Today, the Missouri Department of Agriculture sets agriculture policy and provides assistance to farmers throughout the state. While the department maintains its regulatory functions, its expanded duties include consumer protection, public health roles, environmental advocacy, agricultural marketing, public information and awareness, and promoting new technology and new uses for Missouri’s agricultural goods.