Common-sense policies move rural America forward

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 Missouri Farm Bureau, serving member families is the highest priority. Our efforts make a positive difference in the lives of farmers and ranchers. 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.

• 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. 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.

• 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.

• 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.

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, Missouri, is president of Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.