Agriculture is the state’s No.1 industry with an $88 billion impact on the state’s economy annually.

Missouri’s Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe was in Chillicothe on Friday and served as the speaker at the Chillicothe FFA and Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Salute to Agriculture lunch.

Kehoe was in Chillicothe for the second time since taking office as Missouri’s Lieutenant Governor on June 18, 2018, by Gov. Mike Parson.

Kehoe, a St. Louis area native, former Ford dealership owner, Missouri State Senator and long-time farmer told the crowd that he was ready to return to the business world full-time, when he was out working on his farm when he got a call from the governor, asking him to go into state-wide politics and become the lieutenant governor.

“I was in the hay bailer, working on it, when the governor called,” Kehoe said. “Told him I would have to call him back, I was busy working on the farm.”

Kehoe has been a farmer for more than 30 years on the family’s beef cattle production farm in Phelps County.

Kehoe’s spoke of the importance of getting youth interested in the field of agriculture, with Missouri having the potential to $25 billion growth annually in the agriculture field, which is already the state’s No.1 industry with an $88 billion impact on the state’s economy annually.

“We have to figure out a way to encourage young men and ladies to get into agriculture,” he said. The opportunity for them to earn a living is huge. If you are a young person who understands the technology and is interested in how we can bring technology into agriculture —through marketing, crop and moisture control, GPS — the possibilities are out there and they are huge.”

With the average age of the Missouri farmer being 59, Kehoe said it was vital to get youth interested in agriculture while encouraging them to follow their passion.

“We have to let them explore and see the future of agriculture so that they can be that first-generation farmer or a second,” he said. “We need to make sure they follow their passion.”

Kehoe encouraged community members attending to allow students to explore whatever post-high-school opportunities they are passionate about, noting that neither he or the governor graduated from a four-year university or college.

“We want them to follow where their heart is,” he said. “Wh have to stop trying to put a round peg in a square hole“If it is being a welder, get a P.h.D., or go into agriculture, we have to encourage that.”

Kehoe also noted that while his office is busy, he and the governor continue to focus on infrastructure growth and continuing improvements, their commitment that is evident through a number of programs they have put in place, he said. Including the “Focus on Bridges” which aims to help repair 250 bridges across the state. Work will begin in March on the Grand River Bridge along U.S. Highway 65 bridge south of town and the Thompson River Bridge on Highway 190. The bridges are part of the governor’s ”Focus on Bridges” program. The start of the program included a February 2019 announcement about the local work and a tour by Kehoe who said on Friday a large piece of concrete from that bridge serves as a reminder why infrastructure work is so important.

The proposed timeline for projects includes work starting around March and completed in December. Both projects will require traffic to be limited to a single lane of traffic, as crews work on one side of the bridge at a time. Temporary closures of the bridges may be necessary during concrete work.