There’s Room at the Table

  

By Gary Wheeler, CEO/Executive Director of the Missouri Soybean Association

Family ties deeply into so much of what we do. In agriculture, we talk about it a lot because farming isn’t merely an occupation, it’s a lifestyle. Within your statewide soybean organizations, we keep that top of mind, making time for fellowship among our farmer leaders and their families and prioritizing building relationships while taking care of business.

Like a family, we’ve also seen that nothing brings us together like an attack from the outside.

Gary Wheeler CEO/Executive Director

In 2010, Missouri agriculture came together to form Missouri Farmers Care, a coalition that has now grown to include more than 45 ag organizations, foundations and agribusinesses. At the time, we were facing an initiative financed largely by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) aimed primarily at the pet industry, and with potential for significant implications for livestock producers. Then, North Dakota saw a similar challenge, and we pulled together resources and manpower to assist our extended ag family. The same with Oklahoma after that. A few years later, in 2014, it was Amendment 1 and the freedom of our farmers and ranchers to operate at stake.

Each time, we came together and ensured that our farmers’ opportunity to support their families raising crops and livestock was protected. It wasn’t about the size of the farm, its owners or business structure, or their marketing methods.

Fewer than two percent of Missourians are actively engaged in farming or ranching. We are not just the top industry for Missouri, we are quite literally the fuel for our state’s economic engine. We do not have the luxury of infighting if we expect to continue to be that driver for Missouri.

Like any family, agriculture cannot allow our house to be divided by a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

We already have that wolf in sheep’s clothing in our state.

This summer, former Missouri Lieutenant Governor and HSUS vice president Joe Maxwell rolled out the Farm Family Action (FFA) group in Missouri. In the launch announcement, Maxwell called for stopping corporate farm ownership, having an open market for farmers to sell their products, and a new “Farmers Bill of Rights” to “level the playing field and let family farmers compete.” Corporate control and contract farming are credited as ruining our rural communities, and FFA promises to be the political muscle farmers need.

Interesting. Creative. Marketing.

We take working for our farmers very seriously – the more than 97 percent of whom are operating family-owned farms, as well as those with another business structure. We continually invest in building relationships and market opportunities around the world, knowing that exports are key to the bottom line for our farmers. We invest farmers’ checkoff dollars into public research, including public soybean varieties and seed, comes back to growers for implementation on their farms.

There is absolutely no excuse for the use of scare tactics in agriculture. 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.

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.

This letter appears in the October 2017 issue of Missouri Soybean Farmer magazine. See the full issue online at mosoy.org/magazine.