Hagler noted that agriculture has been the bright spot during the nation's recent recession.
"Agriculture was the only sector of the economy that continued to do well," he said. "People continued to invest in agriculture. We saw exports expanding and growing."
He also talked about the future of agriculture, pointing out by 2050 the world population is projected at 9 billion. Hagler said even if we didn't lose an inch of farm ground before that time, farmers will need to double current production in order to meet the demand.
"That's a heck of a challenge, but it is a challenge that America and Missouri farmers are well-prepared to make," he said.
He said farmers are embracing new technology, noting the willingness to embrace change is important.
Hagler also reminded farmers to connect to a broader audience
"Agriculture is not just about farming and farm families, it's about consumers," he said, noting "Four out of four people eat. "
Hagler asked the audience to become "ag-evangelists."
"When people talk about agriculture, stand up for agriculture. Stand up and fight for agriculture, because agriculture is what pulled this state out of the doldrums it has been in," he said. "It's been the number one industry for the history of our state and will continue to be the number one economic driver."
"When the American farmer does well, America does well. There is more money in the church plate on Sunday. Small businesses thrive," he said. "Local schools are better funded, communities come together because farmers put that money right back at home."
The dinner meeting was the kickoff to the 2013 Agri-Leader winter meeting schedule. On next Thursday, Jan. 10, Lance Moore of the Department of Conservation and Kerrick Alumbaugh, Lafayette County Sheriff will be speaking in the ag classroom at Santa Fe High School at 7 p.m.
Agri-leader member David Lueck announced the Global Agriculture Symposium is set for Jan. 24 at the Concordia Community Center. Several well-known speakers will be featured including Don Borgman, John Deere Director of Industry Relations. The topics covered include: Biofuels in the Global Economy, Farm Markets and Policy, Life After the Drought, Marking Sense of Variable Rate Data, Getting a Handle on Cover Crops and Global Transportation's Changing Effect on U.S. Agriculture. Four of the six sessions will be Certified Crop Advisor accredited.