As I make the drive from Dent County to Jefferson City each week I pass through miles and miles of farm land - land that has been owned and farmed by Missouri families for generations. Whether I drive by rows of crops or cattle grazing in the field, I’m reminded just how much the traditions of farming have meant to our state, and how vital they continue to be to the Missouri way of life.
Next week we will take an important and historic step forward in protecting these rich traditions. The Right to Farm legislation I have talked about in past reports is in position to be truly agreed by both the House and Senate and on its way to the ballot, which is where you will have the opportunity to decide whether to enshrine the traditional rights of farmers in our Missouri Constitution. It is a moment I have looked forward to for many years, and one that has required a long and difficult road to reach.
Interestingly, the road I take to the state Capitol building each week takes me through Osage County where hundreds of farmers have raised crops and livestock for generations. One of those farmers is a good friend and former colleague who goes by the nickname of “Big Country.” Big Country’s real name is Tom Loehner and he is someone who truly cares for the well-being of our family farmers and our agriculture industry as a whole. He also is someone who played a pivotal role in helping the state legislature to traverse the difficult road that has allowed us to reach the point we’re at today with the Right to Farm amendment.
It was Big Country who spent time on his family farm not only sorting cattle, but also thinking about all of the issues facing Missouri farmers. As both a farmer and a legislator he saw clearly that special interest forces had become a true threat to the well-being of family farmers here in Missouri. He knew that every inch they gained in our state would eventually be turned into a beachhead from which they could launch a true offensive on agriculture. Most importantly, he knew something had to be done to stop it.
It was Big Country’s goal to put a Right to Farm amendment in place that would protect the institution of farming from the out-of-state radical interest groups that want to destroy our way of life. As the chairman of the House Agriculture Policy Committee, he wielded a great deal of authority. As an honest and hardworking individual, he commanded the respect of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle. But even with Big Country’s influence and his well-earned good reputation, he was not able to push the Right to Farm amendment through the legislative process and onto the ballot.
Page 2 of 2 -
That is why, as we stand on the verge of finally seeing this important constitutional protection become reality, I have to acknowledge the efforts of farmer-legislators like Big Country and Reps. Bill Reiboldt and Casey Guernsey, as well as Senators Mike Parson and Brian Munzlinger and so many others who have served alongside me . All of these honorable men have brought their knowledge of the agricultural way of life here to the state Capitol where they have used it to help do what is best and what is right for farm families in all parts of the state. It has been my great privilege and honor to work with them on what I believe is one of the most important things we will do this year, or any year.
By passing the Right to Farm and placing it on the ballot, we can give Missourians the opportunity to defend the traditions that have been handed down for generations among farm families. Together we can send a strong message that we will not allow radical animal rights groups to put unreasonable and destructive rules and regulations in place – burdensome mandates that will prevent farmers from raising their animals just as their parents and grandparents taught them.
Just as Big Country realized when he proudly served here in the halls of state government, it’s a move we have to make if we want our multi-billion dollar agriculture industry – the lifeblood of our state’s economy – to continue to not just survive, but thrive. This is a great moment for Missouri farmers and I hope you will join me in supporting this important and much-needed change to our state constitution so that it appears on the ballot in November of 2014.