By Garrett Hawkins, President of Missouri Farm Bureau
Another session of the Missouri General Assembly is upon us, and this year looks to be a busy one. With redistricting, members running for higher office and many passionate legislative disagreements, 2022 should have no shortage of fireworks at the state capitol.
Missouri Farm Bureau’s priorities for this year’s session call upon the roots of who we are as an organization. As the state’s largest farm organization and the nation’s oldest state Farm Bureau, we believe in supporting farmers and rural communities and giving them the tools they need to succeed.
Our rural communities are in dire need of infrastructure investment. One of the most glaring needs is for broadband service that will support businesses and improve the overall quality of life in rural Missouri. Governor Parson’s plan to invest $400 million of federal funds into broadband deployment is a wise use of this one-time infusion. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to energize our rural economies, improve access to groundbreaking telemedicine capabilities and bring the next generation home to the farm.
Defending property rights may be the most fundamental issue Farm Bureau stands for. Without strong property rights, the ability of farmers and ranchers to produce the food, fuel and fiber the world needs could be in jeopardy. In the midst of historic supply chain disruptions, we need to ensure we can keep producing these goods locally. In 2022, we will continue working with the legislature to stop the abusive use of eminent domain. This power should be a last resort. We must limit its use to projects that truly benefit the general public. Simply put, eminent domain should not be used for private gain.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) is a constant partner with farmers and ranchers in our state. For years, MDA’s Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA) has boosted key growth centers for agriculture through the use of targeted tax credit programs. Credits for ethanol, biodiesel, wood energy and livestock processing capacity are key to our state. These programs have been proven to return many times their cost. In 2021, a routine extension of the programs’ sunset did not make it to the governor’s desk. We expect to see a broad bipartisan coalition pass a renewal of these programs early in the 2022 session.
We also need to tighten up abuses of the initiative petition process. Our current system has made it too easy for out-of-state big-money influencers to buy their way onto a ballot. Too often, these special interests cleverly disguise radical proposals with misleading language. We should only change Missouri’s constitution when our citizens broadly agree that it is necessary. We will support efforts to protect our constitution from deceptive outside influence.
The next five months will surely bring many more controversies, and we will work to make our members’ voices heard in the state capitol. No matter what arises, we must keep our eye on the goal. Missouri Farm Bureau will work for the benefit of the people of Missouri and do all we can to get meaningful legislation to the governor’s desk.