Divisive comments build tension among state’s ag groups
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A newly-formed political agriculture group is making waves in the Show-Me State and ruffling the feathers of other ag groups at the same time.
Family Farm Action, a group formed and led by former Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell, contends that they are here to protect America’s family farms and rural communities from ‘multi-national agribusiness monopolies.’
According to the organization, their goal is to fill a perceived void in the representation of small family farmers, saying that most of the existing organizations traditionally Republican candidates and corporate agriculture.
“American family farmers have many great nonprofit organizations who advocate for family farm agriculture, but it is time all of us family farmers have a political voice,” Maxwell, President and CEO of Family Farm Action, said. “Our freedom and our democracy is threatened by the corporate stranglehold large corporations have on our country; it’s time to fight back.”
In launching the group, Maxwell called for stopping corporate farm ownership, an open market for farmers to sell products, and a new “Farmers Bill of Rights” to “level the playing field and let family farmers compete.”
The group decries corporate control and contract farming as ruining rural communities, promising to stand for Missouri farmers.
But some have taken offense to that notion, in particular, Gary Wheeler, the CEO and executive director of the Missouri Soybean Association, who published an op-ed this week calling out the organization for what he referred to as scare tactics.
“There is absolutely no excuse for the use of scare tactics in agriculture,” he wrote. “And quite frankly, just like at family dinner, if you can’t say something positive, can’t talk about what you’re doing without degrading someone else, maybe it’s time to take a hard look at what you’re really contributing to the conversation.”
Wheeler’s piece condemns infighting among the ag groups, saying that his organization also works hard for farmers, and as agriculture serves as the “economic engine” of the state, no group has the luxury of infighting in their attempts to further those goals.
“Let’s focus on relationships, rather than ‘political muscle,’ to move us all forward. There is more than enough room at the table for us all to succeed,” he wrote.
Maxwell could not be reached for comment for the story as of the time of publishing.