SEDALIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Farmers and politicians gathered Monday at the Missouri State Fair to talk about the next extension of the Farm Bill. Drought and rural broadband were the top topics of conversation.
The Farm Bill provides a government security blanket for farmers. The 2018 Farm Bill expires next month with the end of the 2023 fiscal year, but U.S. lawmakers are working to extend it. Lawmakers are considering a one-year extension.
"The only commodity we're not producing more of is minutes. So the clock's ticking," said Congressman Glenn "GT" Thompson, chair of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee.
Gov. Mike Parson, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, U.S. Rep. Mark Alford (R-Raytown) and a Pennsylvania congressman are taking questions at the Missouri State Fair, where a large concentration of Missouri farmers and future farmers are this week.
"The effect this has had on our state is going to be a long lingering effect because we didn't get the hay crops we needed early on this year," said Parson.
Of the billions of dollars the Farm Bill would allocate, about 12% would go to agriculture production programs, 5% to conservation programs and 81% to supplemental nutritional programs.
Missouri agriculture has taken a hit the last few years from prolonged drought, severe storms and inflation.
"From drought to flood, we as farmers need more tools in the toolbox to help us with on farm resiliency," said Garrett Hawkins with the Missouri Farm Bureau.
Missouri farms contribute about $94 billion to the economy and the state ranks in the top 10 for many commodities, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
Another topic that came up often during the discussion was rural broadband. Reagan, a 16-year-old Future Farmers of America member and 6th generation farmer, asked what lawmakers are doing to bring broadband to rural Missouri.
"It's very important for everyone to have that opportunity and that connection for different agricultural systems. It's also really helpful for students and FFA members like me," Reagan said.
The lawmakers present assured her it was a priority at both the state and federal level. Thompson said it was something that many government departments have a hand in, complicating the matter.
"Recently Missouri was designated as one of the neediest states when it comes to try to get rural broadband in into our communities," Alford said.