St. Louis Airport Looks to Beef Up Livestock Flights

Nov. 23, 2022

Nov. 23—JEFFERSON CITY — A new herd of passengers could soon be departing St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

As part of a $47 billion budget approved by state lawmakers in May, the airport is set to receive $2 million to boost the number of outgoing flights carrying live cattle to other countries.

Airport director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said Tuesday that the money will be used to upgrade a former American Airlines cargo facility in the southeast part of the airport to better accommodate the shipping of livestock.

The improvements could help the airport garner a shipping permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which could streamline the process and expand the use of the facility.

"We're hoping that this moves us closer to permanent status," Hamm-Niebruegge said.

The project is among scores of initiatives outlined in the state's spending plan, which included billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief funds. Lawmakers also earmarked $5 million to boost international passenger flights to and from Missouri, but that plan has been put on hold until next year.

During debate on the matter in May, outgoing Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Hegeman, R- Cosby, said helping the Livestock Export and Inspection Facility at Lambert would help increase the number of cattle flown to overseas markets.

Hamm-Niebruegge said the airport reached out to state officials asking for the money because it will not only help the airport, but Missouri's vibrant livestock business.

"We decided this industry was really taking off," she said. "This is really a benefit to Missouri farmers."

According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the state's cattle industry contributes more than $1.6 billion to its economy and supports more than 40,825 jobs.

In 2019, Canada imported almost $8 million worth of live cattle and cattle genetics. Pakistan is in second place, importing more than $4.9 million. Mexico, Japan, Brazil, Costa Rica and Argentina also import live cattle and genetics from Missouri.

Gov. Mike Parson and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, as well as a number of state lawmakers, are cattle farmers.

Currently, the airport has only been exporting hogs, primarily to South America.

Among the changes planned at the cargo facility is a new floor surface. While the concrete floor is fine for pigs, it is slippery for cattle and horses.

The building also will undergo renovations to its offices, restrooms and security.

"That's a pretty hefty price tag," Hamm-Niebruegge said.

Once ready in the spring, she hopes the facility will serve as a drawing point for not only Missouri ranchers, but for those in other states.

Cattle are typically stowed in large wooden crates and then loaded on to cargo airplanes like a Boeing 747.


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