Missouri directs drivers to wineries and breweries but not family farms focused on agritourism

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LIBERTY, Mo. -- If you've ever driven across the country, you've no doubt noticed highway exit signs pointing you to numerous roadside attractions.

But unlike many other states, you won't find family farms that make a large portion of their income on tourism on Missouri's highway signs.

The Missouri Farm Bureau is making it a legislative priority in 2020 to work with lawmakers for changes in that area, similar to those previously gained by the Missouri Wine and Grape Board.

Wineries and breweries are allowed on the signs, deemed "educational sites," along with zoos and botanical gardens in Missouri Department of Transportation's Tourist Oriented Directional Signing Program.

The Missouri Farm Bureau said agritourism is one of the few bright spots in the ag-economy these days. At least 500 Missouri farms have started seeking secondary income with tourist attractions like pumpkin patches, fishing, U-pick fruits and veggies and country stores.

"Our county has very specific rules having to do with size of signs, where they can be, how long they can be there. If I could get something having to do with highways and highway signage, that would be huge," said Carolyn Raasch of Carolyn's Country Cousins Pumpkin Patch.

The Farm Bureau is still working with lawmakers to try draw up a bill and looking at how much it would cost MoDOT to install the signs on interstates and state highways.

If agritourism operated like other attractions, farms would pay $450 a year per highway sign and $150 for the "trailblazer" signs that help tourists find their way off the beaten path.

Any bill would likely have to resolve a current sticking point of signs, including important additional details not needed for other attractions like if the farm tourist destination is a seasonal operation.

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