In rural Missouri, we know what it’s like to feel forgotten. Coastal elites think of us as “flyover country” and have no idea what our lives are like or what we struggle with. When hard times come, the last thing you need is to feel like nobody’s listening and nobody cares.
One of my favorite things about Farm Bureau is how we treat each other like family. Like any family, we don’t always agree on everything, but we are there for each other in our times of need.
I was recently reminded of the strong Farm Bureau family connection when four of my counterparts in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas issued a plea for help. Their states form the entirety of our southern border with Mexico. Over the past few months, an unprecedented influx of migrants has illegally flooded over the border. Many have been detained in overcrowded facilities and have been exploited in unconscionable ways by human smugglers known as “Coyotes.”
However, there is another element of the story that has been largely ignored. Nearly all of the illegal crossings are happening in remote, rural parts of the border. This means farmers and ranchers have been bearing the brunt of the influx.
Responding to the call from our border states, all 51 state and territorial Farm Bureaus banded together to demand that the Biden administration listen to their pleas and take action. In a joint letter, we gave voice to local farmers and ranchers and conveyed what is happening on the ground.
These local Farm Bureau members have seen “cut fences, destroyed crops, compromised water sources, vandalism, litter on their property and more.” As we explained in our letter, Coyotes are “making false promises and doing whatever it takes to get paid and get away, including jeopardizing lives and property. In their desperation to evade law enforcement, Coyotes abandon people, steal vehicles, vandalize property and threaten the safety and livelihoods of farmers and ranchers. They are often criminals who smuggle drugs and firearms into the country, frequently leaving them on farmers’ and ranchers’ property, causing unrest for farm and ranch families.”
This lawlessness has forced hardworking families to live as if they are under siege: taking shifts doing chores, keeping children inside, and monitoring animals more closely out of fear of Coyotes and illegal immigrants. Local resources have been exhausted, leaving farmers and ranchers to fend for themselves. This situation is inexcusable, and it needs to end immediately, for the good of everyone involved.
All 51 state and territorial Farm Bureaus sent this unprecedented joint letter to the Biden administration because the situation is dire and our friends need help. The human toll on both sides of the equation is enormous. I am proud to stand with our fellow farmers and ranchers on the southern border to call on the federal government to fix this problem without further delay and put an end to this senseless suffering.
Garrett Hawkins, a farmer from Appleton City, is president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.