OSAGE BEACH, Mo. — Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd filled with farmers and ranchers from across the state, the Show-Me State’s 57th Governor connected with his roots and spoke of continuing to better rural Missouri.

Gov. Mike Parson and a handful of other statewide elected officials and lawmakers spoke at the annual Missouri Farm Bureau meeting on Monday morning. Soon-to-be Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Senator-elect Josh Hawley, and U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt also addressed the crowd gathered at Tan-Tar-A in Osage Beach.

They all reiterated the importance of agriculture, calling it the “backbone” of Missouri and the United States.

“I am so proud to be a farmer,” said Parson, who was introduced as a “longtime friend” of the Missouri Farm Bureau. Parson runs a cow/calf operation in Bolivar and is from generations of farmers.

Parson spoke at the annual meeting in 2017, but in his statewide role as lieutenant governor. He assumed the role of Missouri’s chief executive on June 1, 2018.

“First thing out of the chute was a drought,” said Parson.  

That drought was just one of many things that hit Missouri’s agriculturalists.

Crop prices are low, farm income is down continuing a five-year trend, the trade war escalated during peak harvest season, and when the state finally got rain, it came when farmers had their crops down. It was not an easy year to be a farmer, noted several of the speakers.

Blake Hurst

“We chose Gratitude as a theme, precisely because it is hard this year…gratitude is the most important when it is the hardest,” said Blake Hurst, President of the Missouri Farm Bureau.

Roy Blunt

Agriculturalists should have hope moving into the upcoming year, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt told the assembled farmers and ranchers.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to replace the North America Free Trade Agreement has been signed by the appropriated heads of state and now it just needs to be passed by Congress. There are also ongoing negotiations with China that are making headway.

“Trade has been a part of conversations in every coffee shop and convenience store,” said Hurst. Trade can be the “difference between profit and loss.”

Both deals — signed and in the works — should improve the trade situation in the upcoming year for farmers and ranchers. And that’s not the only thing moving in a position direction: it appears a signed 2018 Farm Bill may be possible before year’s end and the Waters of the U.S. rule has been scrapped.

Parson noted that the future is not just looking up for agriculturalists.

“Missouri’s future is bright, extremely bright. The economy looks good. But if you want these young men and women to stay within the borders of the state of Missouri, we must be leaders,” said Parson. “I often say being a leader isn’t about being the best. Being a leader is about making the people around you better.”

The current administration is working to better the state by rolling back unnecessary regulations, promoting workforce development, and enticing businesses to the state.

Connecting every school to the internet is a goal Parson is pushing for, along with expanding broadband access in rural Missouri.

“We have the opportunity — me and you — to pass down to the next generation an even better way of life. To be farmers, to use technology to its advantages, to make sure that Missouri is a leader not just in the United States of America, but in the world,” said Parson.

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.