When I interviewed for the position of Vice Chancellor and Dean of CAFNR more than two years ago, my message identified the incredible potential for this land-grant college to be a more recognized, worldwide leader.   Many themes from that vision have been detailed in CAFNR’s new strategic plan, titled “Drive to Distinction.”  This plan was carefully crafted over 16-months to help us identify, showcase and sharpen our strengths and opportunities – pursuing excellence in everything that makes CAFNR a desired partner and destination for stakeholders.

A thorough, well-crafted strategic focus is imperative for our college. To move forward, we must think differently, plan more effectively, and intentionally pursue big ideas around the land-grant mission of the University and the needs of our constituents.

Fast-changing environmental, economic, technological and sociological forces, including food needs, climate change, agriculture advancements and health demands for humans, animals and plants will transform our future. These changes will shape our research, student training and community connections. CAFNR, as part of the flagship Missouri land-grant university, can affect the lives of every citizen by providing unbiased, relevant and accessible education, information and resources.

We touch the largest industries in the state and search for solutions to the most pressing challenges in our world today. We have the opportunity – the obligation – to lead in transforming our state and the world around us.

The CAFNR strategic plan is a road map for us to improve the health of our environment, food, economy and people. Imagining a healthy world is our unifying theme, with six strategic priorities:

  • Ensuring Student Success
  • Advancing Research and Innovation
  • Empowering Missourians
  • Showcasing Leadership
  • Cultivating A Diverse and Inclusive Community
  • Championing Global Citizenship and Engagement
CAFNR has numerous, branded programs with a global reputation for excellence.  We now designate these initiatives as Programs of Distinction. Together with our academic programs, the Programs of Distinction contribute significantly to Missouri’s agriculture and natural resource economies. These programs bring distinction to CAFNR through our commitment to teaching, research and Extension.
Programs of Distinction:

Complementing the Programs of Distinction, CAFNR will pursue Grand Ideas. These initiatives will address big societal problems and focus resources across Missouri while advancing the state.

Grand Ideas:

  • Center for Genomics Reproduction and Health Innovation
  • Healthy Ecosystems for Life on the Planet
  • Precision Foods for Health
  • Precision Models for Health
  • Show-Me-State Food, Beverage and Forest Products Manufacturing Initiative
  • Smart Farms, Smart Agriculture: The Digital Age of Farming
  • University of Missouri Institute for Plant Sciences

One of our Grand Ideas has already started to gain traction around the state. The Show-Me-State Food, Beverage and Forest Products Manufacturing Initiative is an opportunity to help Missouri’s agriculture andnatural resource industries achieve even greater economic impact by transforming in-state our many commodities into value-added products consumers desire and use every day. Food, beverage and forest products manufacturing can diversify basic commodity production that occurs throughout all Missouri, enhancing its value and bringing economic benefits to our producers.

We partnered with the Missouri Agricultural Foundation, who received a grant from the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority, to conduct an economic feasibility study for the initiative. Groups across the state provided additional support for the study, including the CAFNR Foundation, MFA Incorporated, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Pork Association, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, Haden & Haden Law Firm, Missouri Beef Industry Council, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Soybeans, Missouri Egg Council, and USDA Rural Development. The study found that Missouri has distinctive opportunities to further grow its value-added manufacturing activities that use basic agricultural inputs. Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe has just established a task force to carry out the suggested initiatives as part of the study, which include:

  • Developing regional food product development centers that will operate as food industry accelerators to advance new products from concept through market testing and into pilot scale production.
  • Building a new industry in precision health foods that leverages academic expertise and infrastructural investments in food and nutritional sciences, clinical health sciences and the food industry of the state.
  • Taking a focused approach to near-term opportunities for enhanced utilization of major agricultural commodities produced in Missouri.
The study found that significant economic benefits may be derived if these strategic initiatives are successfully implemented. Their impact on Missouri’s economy by 2027 is projected to:
  • Expand total value-added ag/food manufacturing economic activity to more than $71B, which is an increase of more than $25B to the current projected rate of growth.
  • Create and support nearly 70,000 new jobs and generate nearly $4.4B in new personal income.
  • Produce annual state and local tax revenue of more than $3B, which is growth of more than $1B compared with 2017.
  • Increase agricultural commodity production sales by approximately $1B annually to meet new value-added uses.

CAFNR and the University of Missouri are thrilled to partner with Missouri’s agriculture and natural resource thought leaders to pursue each recommendation identified in the feasibility study.  However, this initiative is not about MU, but rather about pursuing a plan that will unite industry, government, communities and higher education to bring new opportunity to our state. 

I am proud to make Missouri my home and to lead this great college.  CAFNR has the opportunity, expertise and an obligation to help better our state for its residents. We are dedicated to Missouri’s students, partners and citizens as together we Drive to Distinction.