JEFFERSON CITY (AP) - A northwestern Missouri man who has held leadership positions with multiple farming organizations was appointed Thursday as the director of the state Department of Agriculture.
Gov. Jay Nixon picked fourth-generation farmer Richard Fordyce to take over a state agency that has been led by an interim director since October, when the then-director resigned. Missouri's agriculture director determines department policy and is a liaison to lawmakers, farmers and the public.
Fordyce, of Bethany, has been chairman of the Missouri State Soil and Water Districts Commission since 2008 and was president of the Harrison County Farm Bureau from 1993 to 2010. He grows soybeans and corn and raises beef cattle on his family's farm in Harrison County.
He also has held leadership posts with the National Biodiesel Board and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. He is one of three directors from Missouri serving on the United Soybean Board, which has 70 soybean farmers nationwide and whose members are appointed by the U.S. secretary of agriculture. Fordyce has served on advisory groups to U.S. Rep. Sam Graves and U.S. Sens. Kit Bond and Jim Talent.
Fordyce begins work as director immediately, but the appointment requires confirmation from the state Senate when lawmakers return to the Capitol next month.
"His experience and understanding of rural Missouri have earned him the respect of his fellow farmers, and I am pleased to appoint him to lead the state agency that works hand in hand with the Show-Me State's agricultural community," Nixon said in a written statement.
Nixon announced the selection during a news conference at a farm in Rushville, which is near the Missouri River and between Kansas City and St. Joseph.
The Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Cattlemen's Association each praised the choice.
Mike Deering, the executive vice president of the cattlemen's association, noted Fordyce is a member of the organization and understands the significance of agriculture commodity groups.
"Richard understands the importance of Missouri's farm and ranch families to this state's economy and values the admirable role they play in feeding a growing global population," Deering said.
An interim director has led the Missouri Agriculture Department since Nixon replaced Jon Hagler on Oct. 11. A day earlier, another high-ranking department employee distributed a letter saying that she was resigning because of what she called a work environment of "hostility, disrespect, intimidation and fear."
Hagler, who had served in the post since Nixon became governor in 2009, told The Associated Press the timing of the letter and his departure were coincidental and described himself as a tough but fair manager who set high expectations and denied leading with hostility or intimidation. Hagler said he informed Nixon in August he was ready to leave the agency and that the governor's office chose his departure date.
Nixon said Thursday that Harry Bozoian, who had been the interim director, now will be the department's deputy director.