by Garret Hawkins, President of Missouri Farm Bureau
The 2023 Missouri State Fair was another one for the books, with a record number of exhibitors and new all-time highs in the Sale of Champions. From the livestock shows to the carnival rides, the concerts, fair food, and everything in between, there was something for everyone to enjoy. For many farmers, that included talking about farm policy.
During the fair, Missouri Farm Bureau partnered with the University of Missouri Extension to host the annual Farm Family Day. Families from every county across the state came to celebrate their accomplishments and enjoy a day at the fair together. The honorees got a special treat this year as House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson addressed the families at dinner. Chairman Thompson attended the fair as a guest of Missouri Congressman Mark Alford and was accompanied by fellow House Agriculture Committee Members Monica De La Cruz and Jonathan Jackson.
Our guests from the House Agriculture Committee experienced the taste of candied bacon and took their turns milking a cow. The main event of the day was a Farm Bill listening session, well-attended by farmers and fairgoers. At the listening session, these U.S. Representatives, alongside fellow Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, Governor Mike Parson and Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe, heard from agriculturalists about their concerns and needs for the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill. I had the chance to share Missouri Farm Bureau’s priorities with the panel, including strengthening and maintaining the farm safety net, pushing for commonsense conservation initiatives, and promoting policies to help rural communities thrive.
Days later, the fair featured more legislative activities like the Governor’s Ham Breakfast, Missouri Farm Bureau’s legislative press conference, and Senator Josh Hawley’s Ag Advisory luncheon. It was a beautiful day to visit with our legislators about agriculture. Our annual legislative press conference was a hit, with speakers including Governor Parson, Senator Eric Schmitt, Congressman Alford, Congressman Eric Burlison and Congressman Jason Smith. They joined us in discussing ongoing efforts to pass MOFB Health Plan legislation to increase access to affordable health coverage, the upcoming Farm Bill, the drought assessment committee, pushing back against government overreach, and commonsense conservation using farm ponds. Senator Hawley hosted the annual luncheon, a tradition started by Senator Kit Bond many years ago, alongside other members of the congressional delegation. Together they provided legislative updates and fielded questions.
The state fair provides attendees with a snapshot of Missouri’s agricultural commodities and the chance to interact and learn from farmers and ranchers. That makes it the perfect venue for our elected officials to keep their fingers on the pulse of agriculture. It’s my hope that these boots-on-the-ground conversations will make a difference in legislative negotiations through the weeks and months to come as we work to grow rural communities across Missouri.