Let’s talk about the Missouri Farm Bureau for just a bit, shall we?
It’s one of the much-maligned special interest groups. They’re lobbyists.
That doesn’t mean they’re evil. Lobbyists have specialized knowledge and insights that are invaluable to lawmakers who are generalists by necessity. In this case, the group says it advocates for farmers, the rural way of life and all Missourians.
When you elect a state representative, you need someone who can separate the informational wheat from the chaff and not just choose a group to always fight for/against.
Last week, I participated in an online seminar for rural candidates that the organization hosted. I was pretty interested in what they had to say. There’s a lot of rural area in western Greene County and it doesn’t get much more rural than Montrose, where I grew up.
Let me start by saying where I agree with them:
1) Roads and bridges — particularly the ones in rural Missouri — are falling apart because there isn’t enough money to take care of them. We need to raise the fuel tax.
They are absolutely correct, and it’s one of the things I’ve said since the start of my campaign.
2) Rural areas need access to reliable, affordable and available broadband Internet. It must be classified as a utility the same as water and electricity and for the same reasons.
They also emphasized that businesses in public-private partnerships to expand broadband must be held accountable.
Politicians have a shaky track record of holding business accountable, especially politicians who aren’t accountable to voters (We’ll touch on that again in just a bit).
3) We need a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to help fight the opioid epidemic that is hammering rural Missouri.
Our state is the only place in the country without one, because a few Republicans have quashed all attempts to implement one here.
I look forward to working with the bureau on all three of those issues and there are a lot more I look forward to getting their input on.
But some of their stances appear to be more about protecting Republicans and factory farming than they are about what’s really the best for rural Missourians.
1) They say they want to improve healthcare in rural areas, but they opposed expanding Medicaid.
Rural Missouri would gain the most from Medicaid expansion, but a lot of rural Missourians voted against it in August.
On one hand I really do understand why. We’re the sons and daughters of pioneers. We like to stand on our own, without government assistance and we tend to look down on those who need it.
But you know what else pioneers did?
They died. A lot.
I don’t know whether the Bureau opposed expansion because it’s following the lead of its members or because it wants to keep happy their benefactors in the Republican party. But they’re wrong.
Medicaid expansion will be a net benefit for all of the state, especially rural Missouri. But we cannot trust Republicans to implement it properly.
They say it undoes the worst parts of Clean Missouri, which was backed by out-of-state billionaires.
It's a good thing the Republican party doesn’t have any of those.
Farm Bureau leadership repeat the canard that districts will stretch from St. Louis to the Bootheel.
Yes, Clean Missouri requires districts be as competitive as possible, but it also requires they be contiguous and compact and respect political boundaries.
By backing Amendment 3, the Farm Bureau rewards Republicans that do nothing for their rural constituents.
3) Farm Bureau speakers mentioned how they helped livestock producers when meat packing plants were closed because of COVID, but they didn’t talk about how we got to this point because of the foreign-ownership policies they and the Republicans supported.
The Post-Dispatch lays it out incredibly well, so I’m not going to rehash it.
4) Speakers also didn’t mention how the Farm Bureau backed legislation that took power away from rural counties to regulate Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.
If you’re really worried about rural Missourians, you let them keep control over their own communities.
There is no better steward of the land than farmers who plan to pass that land on to their children.
Factory farms do not have that long-term vision. Farm Bureau would do well to keep it in mind as well.