September 14, 2020

Agriculture Workforce Study Lays Groundwork for Future of Agriculture


Today, the University of Missouri Extension and the Missouri Agricultural Foundation published a study entitled Workforce Needs Assessment of Missouri’s Food, Agriculture and Forestry Industries that examines the future workforce demand of the state’s number one economic driver – agriculture.  Over the next decade, the 98 food, agriculture and forestry industries included in the study are projected to generate 13,000 openings annually.

The release of the research findings coincides with Governor Mike Parson’s declaration of September as Workforce Development Month in the state of Missouri.

“Workforce development has been a priority of our administration from day one,” said Governor Mike Parson. “Agriculture technology and the opportunities it creates are our future. Time and time again, we hear from agribusinesses that finding skilled labor is a continuous challenge. We must do our part to build the labor force that businesses need to make our state the best place to live and work in America.”

Missouri agriculture is a foundation of the state’s economy. According to the most recent analysis of the state’s agriculture and forestry industry, the sector contributed more than $88 billion to the state’s economy — approximately 15 percent of total state output. As the global demand for food continues to rise, states like Missouri must be ready to significantly increase their production over the next thirty years to meet this demand. Doing so will require multiple strategies, including the development of a next-generation agricultural workforce.

“The future of our food, agriculture and forestry workforce will look much different than it has in the past and we need to be prepared for those changes,” said Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn. “Missouri agriculture has it all – apprenticeships, technical schools, colleges, universities – to support a robust workforce development strategy. Our agribusinesses and students are counting on us to create a plan that moves our state forward.”

The assessment draws on an analysis of labor market information, employer surveys and key stakeholder interviews conducted throughout 2019 and early 2020. This research highlights the jobs that these employers need to fill over the next decade, and identifies the current and future workforce challenges they face. For example, the study shows that nearly 40 percent of jobs examined require workers to have moderate or long-term on-the-job training, which is twice the average for other jobs in the state. Overall, the study shows the importance of two themes: create & compete. The food, agriculture and forestry industry must implement strategies that create unique positions and compete with other industries for skilled workers.

The report findings will inform the creation of a long-term workforce development strategy for Missouri’s food, agriculture and forestry workforce.

“This study lays the groundwork for leaders in the business, government and education sectors to work together on a plan to promote and expand educational opportunities and existing programs to new regions and audiences, and to find ways to invest in rural communities,” said Marshall Stewart, MU Vice Chancellor for Extension and Engagement.

The study was commissioned by the Missouri Agricultural Foundation and funded by the Missouri Agricultural & Small Business Development Authority.

To find the full text and an executive summary of the Workforce Needs Assessment of Missouri’s Food, Agriculture and Forestry Industries study, please visit