It's about that time of the year again, when most of us are just about finished with the cold of winter, and want nothing more than for the warmth of spring to start rolling in. Nevertheless, the impending change of seasons has much greater implications for rural Missourians than it does in the urban metropolis of the nation's capital. For citizens of urban areas, it means time to go to the pool or enjoy a picnic. For most rural Missourians, it means time to get to work.
I recently sat down with Missouri Director of Agriculture Richard Fordyce and we discussed the department's newly created initiative, the Agriculture Stewardship Assurance Program. The program, also known as ASAP, recognizes Missouri farmers and ranchers who strive to be responsible stewards of the land. I'm sure all of you have seen, and felt, a growing trend worldwide that favors sustainable and responsible food production, processing and transportation methods. According to a Nielson survey, 42 percent of North Americans say "they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact." With such a large percentage of, not just our nation's population, but the world as a whole moving in this direction, it is very important to me that Missouri farmers are given the opportunity to be on the leading edge of this movement.
Luckily the ASAP initiative allows for exactly this.
"By and large, Missouri's farmers are good land stewards, because they know that it's vital to long-term profitability, sustainability, and quality of life for them and those who will work the land in the future" said Director Fordyce.
I couldn't agree more with Director Fordyce. Missouri farmers and ranchers have always been leaders in responsible land management, and for that I applaud them. Such individuals and companies deserve to be rewarded for their efforts. ASAP acknowledges and rewards those who proactively protect the environment, employ sound management practices, and use science-based technology to produce food, fuel and fiber for consumers.
Any farmer or rancher who practices sustainable management in the following categories is eligible to become ASAP-certified: grassland, livestock, forestry, farmstead, energy and cropland. Farmers can become certified in one or more categories. Contrary to most of the documents you fill out for the government, the application for ASAP is very brief and simple. It can be found at www.asap.farm or call 573-751-2539 to have an application mailed to you.
Farmers and ranchers who become ASAP-certified will receive official verification of their farm's sustainability, including displayable proof such as farm signage, official ASAP stamp for marketing materials and social media, recognition on ASAP's website, and early access to educational programs. Such benefits are vital in ensuring Missouri farmers a competitive place in not just the domestic marketplace, but the international marketplace as well. For example, the European Union requires sustainability certification for all agricultural sales transactions. Additionally, Governor Nixon and Director Fordyce have been working diligently to open the Missouri agriculture market to Cuba now that many of the trade embargos have been lifted. Many of you may be surprised to hear, Cuba is one of the leading nations in the world in sustainable agriculture. Farmers and Ranchers who become ASAP-certified will gain unprecedented access to these marketplaces that previously did not exist.
I think that ASAP can be a model for the country. A model that many of you have already been practicing for years without any need for reward. Because rural America knows the importance of taking care of our land and our world. With ASAP your farm will be open to that world, and its economy.
I would suggest for every Missouri farmer and rancher to look into becoming ASAP-certified. There are only benefits, and future generations will thank you for your responsibility.