After a year of celebrating 100 years as an organization, Missouri Farm Bureau (MFB) looked ahead during its 101st annual meeting. Held at Tan-Tar-A Resort at the Lake of the Ozarks December 6-8, the event focused on the next governor, legislative priorities for 2016, and agriculture far into the future.
For the first time, major candidates running for Missouri governor participated in an exchange of questions at the same event. One by one, candidates sat down with MFB President Blake Hurst to answer questions submitted by members. A packed room of more than 300 found Democrat Chris Koster and Republicans John Brunner, Eric Greitens, Catherine Hanaway and Peter Kinder shared similar views on many agricultural issues.
All agreed that the Missouri Department of Agriculture director must remain an appointed position. Each also said Missourians are capable of making their own decisions without interference from the federal government or groups such as the Humane Society of the U.S. Also, more investments are needed in rural Missouri, from broadband service to roads and bridges.
Before Farm Bureau leaders got to the business of debating the organization’s legislative policies, they heard from two well-known futurists. Dr. Lowell Catlett, agricultural economist and Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University, said farmers must be willing to differentiate their products to the most segmented consumers in history. “In the U.S., the net worth of 120 million households is $97 trillion, the largest net worth ever on the planet. It provides them the opportunity to buy craft beers and free-range chickens,” he said, adding we can’t rely totally on pastoral agriculture to feed a growing population. Catlett said farmers will use technology. For example, expect to see the Uber transportation model expand into agriculture, used in everything from sensor equipment that orders parts before they fail, to just-in-time delivery of commodities. Everything will rely on the sharing of data.
Companies like the Climate Corporation are working on projects now that will move huge amounts of production data from the field to anywhere in real time. Dr. Michael Stern, the company’s chief operating officer, told the group all of that data will be analyzed in real time so farmers can micro-manage crops without being overwhelmed with information.
Hurst touched on the meeting’s “Imagine” theme during his address. “It is easy to imagine Farm Bureau helping assure the future is good for farming. And, like all of you fortunate enough to have children and grandchildren, my grandkids remind me why nothing is as essential as imagining and working for a bright future for agriculture.”
Part of that work happens in legislative halls and committee rooms. Voting delegates at the meeting reviewed and approved a number of policy positions. Members passed resolutions showing their support for the $1 state beef checkoff proposal and reaffirming strong support for increased transportation funding. Recognizing continuing work at the Capitol this year on the Missouri Dairy Revitalization Act, policy was approved urging the Legislature to fully fund the Act. New policies support telehealth and telemedicine programs to help rural Missouri get improved access to healthcare. In this same vein, members support state funding for programs that provide efficient, affordable rural broadband for health, educational and homeowner use.
New policy states Farm Bureau’s belief that at least one Curator on the Board of Curators at the University of Missouri should be involved in agriculture. Members reaffirmed language supporting strong protections for livestock owners from criminal peace disturbance ordinances. New language also calls for more protections for landowners against private utility companies.
Frustration with the Obama administration’s Waters of the U.S. rule, Clean Power Plan and other over-reaching regulations prompted members to renew the call for an overhaul of the federal rulemaking process to increase accountability and transparency. Delegates adopted policy opposing additional restrictions on activities in the floodplain resulting from implementation of a Presidential Executive Order.
Farm Bureau’s entire 2016 policy will be available online at mofb.org.