Brutal. Miserable. Those were a couple of words (among others) used to describe the recent Arctic blast. As farmers and ranchers, we know dealing with the elements is part of the job, but that didn’t make it easy to manage through the bitter cold and snow to keep hay out and water available. Our animals were — and are — our priority.
For the Missouri Farm Bureau (MOFB), serving member families is the highest priority. Our efforts make a positive difference in the lives of farmers and ranchers, and, frankly, all Missourians. Carrying our member-adopted policies to Washington is one way we serve as we work to make a positive impact on the legislative process.
Our members bring a well-informed, common-sense approach to policymaking. If Congress implemented their ideas, it would make a positive impact on our country. Here are a few of the recommendations we recently shared with Missouri’s Congressional delegation:
Energize the rural economy. Our farm and rural economies have been struggling. It is more critical now than ever to invest in rural infrastructure to improve the overall quality of life and access to services in rural America. This includes ensuring affordable and reliable broadband. The pandemic showed how important it is to connect all Missourians with high-speed internet access. If we can bring electricity to some of the most remote areas, we can find a way for the internet, too.
In a broader sense, MOFB is engaged in issues impacting the rural way of life. This includes supporting transportation, energy, health care, and many other issues that affect our everyday lives. Keeping our communities strong is critical if we want new generations to return to them and thrive.
We also need to ensure families can keep their farms and small businesses intact so they can pass them down to their children. Our members believe it should be a high priority to secure permanent estate tax repeal and maintain key components of capital gains tax law, including preserving a stepped-up basis.
Hold the line on regulation. Missouri farmers and ranchers need clarity when it comes to federal regulation. The Navigable Waters Protection Rule and regulatory modifications related to the Endangered Species Act were among several improvements made in recent years to provide greater clarity and certainty for farmers and landowners. We will work to maintain these important changes and vigorously oppose efforts to repeal them. Our farmers, ranchers, and small business owners do not need more unnecessary regulatory burdens.
Seek improved price transparency in the meatpacking sector. Beginning with a processing plant fire in August 2019, followed by impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme volatility in livestock markets has resulted in record low profits on the farm. The problems have been widespread, but they were especially pronounced in the beef sector. COVID-19 put a spotlight on the problems caused by concentration in the livestock industry — problems we have been concerned about for years. MOFB strongly supports investigations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Justice, and Federal Trade Commission into consolidation in the meatpacking industry. We are also committed to seeking more market transparency through legislative, regulatory, and private-sector solutions.
Maintain support for the farm bill. The next farm bill must maintain investments in farm programs, crop insurance, conservation, and rural development. Conservation will be a hot topic as the new administration pursues its climate agenda and considers retooling existing programs. Many Missouri farmers already use multiple conservation practices on their farms. Highlighting the important work we do to care for the environment will be key to demonstrating agriculture’s needs and successes in these conversations. As “climate-focused” proposals are considered, we strongly believe practices should be voluntary, incentive-based, practical, and flexible.
Support strong international trade. Farmers and ranchers need an international trade agenda that holds our foreign partners to their existing commitments and provides new market opportunities. Our producers are the best in the world, and we need access to new customers to keep our rural economy growing.
The list may seem lengthy, but it is incumbent upon us to make sure our elected officials are aware of the breadth of the issues on farmers’ minds. Guided by common-sense policies, we can move rural America forward and strengthen it for the future.
Garrett Hawkins, a farmer from Appleton City, is the president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.