Twenty stops. 15 counties. 5 days. That’s the tally for the 3rd Annual District-Wide Farm Tour so far, a yearly trip to see different sectors of the agriculture industry in every corner of our district. The Farm Tour kicked off on Monday and will travel to each of the 30 counties in Missouri’s Eighth Congressional District before it is finished. It gives me the chance to talk with the farmers and ranchers that keep our rural economy moving. We are halfway through the tour, and I have already been able to speak with dairy farmers, beef producers, bison ranchers, rabbit farmers, and folks who grow garlic, chestnuts, and more. In southeast and southern Missouri, we have more than 19,000 farms and are fortunate enough to produce everything except citrus and sugar. The wealth of diverse farms makes our area unique.
The acres are more than just farms, though; they are part of the fabric of our district. Brandywine Blueberry Farm in Rolla shows that family farms aren’t just important to our rural economy, they are important to the community. Lance Hasten’s cattle operation in Salem has grown from three cows and a loan he received while in FFA to the prospering farm with 160 head of cattle he has now. The strong sense of community at the Houston Dairy Coop in Texas County exemplifies the heart of our district. I could go on and on because these folks took their passion for agriculture and have turned it into their career. But, whether people make cheese or harvest timber, our conversations gravitate toward the same place: regulations from unelected bureaucrats are hurting Missouri farm families and threatening their livelihoods.
Their personal stories help me advocate for our agriculture-rich district back in Washington and protect our rural way of life. I recently added language to the Energy & Water funding bill to block the EPA from using any funds to implement the damaging Waters of the United States rule which could bring every puddle of water under government scrutiny. I have called for more support during flood season to protect our land and resources. And, I’m pushing to make Section 179 tax deductions permanent so farm families and small businesses know their tax burden for the year instead of relying on the president to sign a temporary Band-Aid in December. Agriculture is the heart of our district and our nation. We must continue to protect it.