Missouri farmers who want to start or expand value-added agricultural businesses have new support from a University of Missouri business development center.

Melvin Brees will join the Missouri Value-Added Development Center as an extension associate to assist producers statewide in on-farm economic value-added assessments. Nancy Giddens, also recently hired as extension associate, will assist producers looking beyond the farm gate to create agri-marketing and value-added business strategies.

Both join the center July 15, said Joe Parcell, director of the center. Brees, an MU Outreach and Extension regional farm management specialist for 15 years in Howard County, will place special emphasis on farm activities pertaining to industrial and food uses of grains and oilseeds, Parcell said. Giddens, an MU agricultural economics instructor and a native of Gower, Mo., will focus on developing sound business plans, positioning and effective marketing strategies, Parcell said.

"The experience and knowledge that these two professionals bring will be instrumental in realizing our goal of increasing the economic viability of agricultural producers and rural communities," Parcell said. "Changes in agriculture combined with continued low commodity prices demand innovative producer-led business approaches," he said. "Our goal is to facilitate value-added business development and provide educational programming for the Missouri agricultural business community."

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