JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri’s two major party candidates for governor made their case for the Missouri Farm Bureau’s endorsement Friday afternoon. Republican Eric Greitens and Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster both laid out their plans for agriculture and what they would do in the event they become governor.
UPDATE: Koster won the endorsement with 76 percent* of the vote. The Farm Bureau announced their decision at 2:30 p.m.
“Chris Koster has been an important advocate of agriculture as attorney general,” Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said. “He was a major supporter of the Right to Farm Amendment passed in 2014 and has worked hard in securing Missouri farmers’ interest in cases involving the Environmental Protection Agency and California regulations adversely affecting our poultry farmers.”
“I am honored to earn the endorsement of the Missouri Farm Bureau,” Koster said in a statement. “Their organization fights for one hundred thousand Missouri farmers and their communities every day, and I am proud to stand with them.”
University of Missouri Professor and Republican candidate for attorney general Josh Hawley also spoke to the Farm Bureau and overwhelmingly earned their endorsement after Democratic candidate Teresa Hensley declined her invitation in the morning.
“With the overreach of government regulations and increased litigation, the Attorney General’s Office is important to agriculture,” Hurst said. “That is why our FARM-PAC voted to get involved with this race. Josh Hawley is a proven conservative who will work on behalf of agriculture and rural Missouri, and we are pleased to endorse him.”
Greitens went first and launched into his regular stump speech about his service in the Navy SEALs and the time he spent building his nonprofit, The Mission Continues. He only got to speaking about agriculture issues in the latter part of his speech before answering questions from the Farm Bureau’s members. Greitens spoke about the need for greater infrastructure including an emphasis on ports and broadband internet connection in rural areas.
However, he also decried the current administration both at the state and federal levels. Greitens attacked Koster as part of that administration. Greitens re-emphasized his zero-based budgeting plan and said that people needed more faith in government to justify spending increases.
“People don’t trust Missouri’s government to spend money wisely,” Greitens said. “Corruption hides in complication. If you increase clarity and increase people’s trust in government… you can make a case to the people of Missouri about why we need to do more.”
Greitens was also asked by some members of the bureau about campaign donations he has received from outside the state, and the intransparency of the $2 million donation he received from the SEALs for Truth PAC.
On the other hand, Koster spoke almost exclusively about his history fighting for the agriculture sector in his years as a senator and an attorney general. He reiterated that he was only senator, Republican or Democrat, from 2004 to 2008 who had a perfect Farm Bureau voting record, his work carrying the eminent domain bill, supporting the right-to-farm amendment, and his willingness to sue the Environmental Protection Agency over the Clean Power Act and the Waters of the United States rule.
For the future, Koster said he would keep Director of Agriculture Richard Fordyce in his current role in the administration, release the withhold of the biodiesel incentive fund, and set up a network of international trade offices in Asia and South America, markets that have been recognized as key for Missouri’s agricultural sector. Koster said agriculture should also be a focus of the Department of Economic Development.
He also took the opportunity to criticize Greitens for not displaying a strong knowledge of agricultural policy or policy in general.
“I believe people of Missouri deserve a governor who knows the difference between the PSC [Public Service Commission] and PSF [Premium Standard Farms],” Koster said.
Koster also touted his unique position as a former Republican and a relatively conservative, agriculturally-minded Democrat to make sure that agriculture becomes not only a focus of his party, but within the state. Koster thinks his first State of the State will incentivize Republicans to work more than they already do for the agricultural sector.
“Those Republicans sitting out there, they’re not going to let me out-ag them,” he said. “If I point the way, these guys are going to come with us like water bursting out of a dam.”
Koster said that he provided the perfect opportunity for the state’s farmers.
“I assume some of you in this room have played blackjack,” he said. “If you landed on 21, don’t take another hit.”
The group’s official endorsement for the governor’s race and the attorney general’s race should be released later Friday afternoon.
UPDATED – 2:55 p.m.: Added final endorsement statements and statements from Hurst.
UPDATED – 4:25 p.m.: Fixed percentage Koster won by from 62.5 percent to 75 percent and added statement from Koster about the endorsement.