From agricultural leader to academic lecturer

Normally, MFA Incorporated president and CEO Ernie Verslues spends his days leading one of the nation’s top agricultural cooperatives. But on April 12 and 13, he found himself leading classes and discussions with agricultural students at the University of Missouri.

For those two days, Verslues served as the Robert O. Reich Family Executive-in-Residence for MU’s Col­lege of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. The program brings business leaders to the university to interact with students, faculty and staff across the breadth of the ag school. Two executives are invited each year—one in the fall and one in the spring.

The program was established in February 1997 as a collaborative learning experience for students. Verslues addressed agribusiness and agriculture education/leadership classes, offering his per­spective on the industry changes during his tenure as well as his outlook for the future. He also par­ticipated in a student roundtable and ag markets discussion among other networking activities with CAFNR representatives.

For more information or to nominate an in­dustry leader for the program, visit online at

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U.S. farmers expect to plant more soybeans, less corn acreage

A record-high 91 million acres of soybeans are expected to be planted this season, up 4% from 2021, according to the Prospective Plantings report from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The report, released March 31, provides the first official, survey-based estimates of U.S. farmers’ 2022 planting intentions.

The largest increases are expected in Missouri and Illinois, where producers in each state intend to plant 400,000 more acres than in 2021. If realized, the planted area of soybeans in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Michi­gan, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin will be the largest on record.

Corn growers intend to plant 89.5 million acres in 2022, down 4% from last year. Acreage decreases from last year of 200,000 or more are expected in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. Record-high acreage is expected in Nevada and South Dakota. Record-low acreage is expected in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Cotton acreage for 2022 is expected to total 12.2 million acres, 9% above last year, while rice is estimated to be down 3% to 2.4 million acres.

All wheat planted for 2022 is estimated at 47.4 million acres, up 1% from 2021. This represents the fifth-lowest wheat plant­ed area since records began in 1919. Winter wheat plantings, at 34.2 million acres, are down less than 1% from the previous es­timate but up 2% from last year. This is the 10th-lowest planted acreage on record. Other spring wheat plantings for 2022 are expected to total 11.2 million acres, down 2% from 2021.

NASS’s acreage estimates are based on surveys conducted during the first two weeks of March from a sample of nearly 73,000 farm operators across the nation.

The Prospective Plantings and all other NASS reports are available online at

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Agriculture feeds the economy

More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the food and agriculture industries continue to add jobs, provide safe food and feed the U.S. economy in the face of global supply chain challenges and more. That’s the finding of the 2022 Feeding the Economy report, a nationwide economic impact study commissioned by 30 food and agri­culture groups.

The farm-to-fork economic analysis reveals how these sectors influence the local and broader U.S. economies. Together, America’s food and agriculture industries are responsible for roughly one-fifth of the country’s economic activity, directly supporting nearly 21.5 million jobs or more than 14% of U.S. employment.

This economic impact starts from the ground up—literally—in the rich soil of America’s farms and ranches, which cover two out of every five acres across the U.S.

Meanwhile, millions of food scientists, production workers, logistics experts, truck drivers and engineers work in more than 200,000 food manufacturing, pro­cessing and storage facilities to keep supply chains resilient and fresh, safe food readily available worldwide.

The journey may conclude at one of the nation’s more than 1 million restau­rant locations or make its way from one of America’s more than 100,000 retail grocers to homes and gatherings.

The report’s findings show that 7% of the nation’s economy and 29% of Amer­ican jobs are linked to food and agriculture, either directly or indirectly. These sectors also exported $182.91 billion worth of goods, helping the U.S. maintain its position as a leading player in global agriculture. In 2021, these industries contributed a total of $3.01 trillion to the U.S. economy.

In addition to providing insights on nationwide impact, the report breaks down the impact by state and congressional district. Key findings include:

  • Total jobs: 43,464,211
  • Total wages: $2.3 trillion
  • Total taxes: $718.15 billion
  • Exports: $182.91 billion
  • Total food and industry economic impact: $7.43 trillion

To measure the total economic impact of the sectors, the analysis also includes the direct and indirect economic activity surrounding these industries, both up­stream and downstream. For example, when a farm equipment retailer hires new employees because farmers are buying more tractors, experts consider the new salaries an indirect impact. Similarly, when a retail associate spends her paycheck, an induced economic impact occurs. Together, these have a multiplier effect on the already formidable direct impact of food and agriculture.

This year’s report can be found at

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