"This year is pivotal for producers in Southern Missouri. We need a new Farm Bill that provides a safety net and protects the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world. We need to shore up disaster assistance programs to save family farms and ranches after worst drought in memory for nearly every producer in Missouri. We need to provide a pro-agriculture climate for small and family-owned businesses to give them certainty over taxes, health care, and environmental regulations that directly affect how they hire and conduct their operations. A lot is hanging in the balance for our rural communities right now, " Emerson said.
During the meeting, the main concerns from the public were the drought the area is experiencing. One concerned citizen said, "There aren't enough well drillers for everyone to get help in the allotted time. They are hoping for an extension," when Emerson asked how they felt how drought assistance programs are working.
Emerson agreed time limits on assistance are frustrating, and are another reason a Farm Bill needs to be passed. "Frustrations abound without a clear plan to pass a Farm Bill, with some livestock disaster assistance programs allowed to expire, with a debate raging over the cost of food allowed to overshadow the costs faced by the producers of the food. Agriculture has always been about good energy policy, good tax policy, and good trade policy. At the moment, we have to focus on good agriculture policy," said Emerson.
Emerson said she understands the risks and extreme measures that farmers and small-business owners are having to take during the drought. Emerson said, "As I listen to what producers have to say about the near-term future of agriculture and their businesses, I always bear in mind how valuable these folks are to Southern Missouri."
Emerson is proud that, even through the rough times, producers still deliver. "The American grocery bill is lower than that of any other developed nation, and agriculture is largely responsible for a narrowing trade deficit between the U.S., and the rest of the world," said Emerson.
She listened as forestry industry workers said, "Government needs to get out of the way of the small businesses. We are the ones who employ America." She also heard concerns about how people can have lumber shipped half across the world cheaper than what they can get it from their local sawmill. Emerson said, "Agriculture is an industry where farmers or loggers sell product for wholesale but they pay retail prices. Supporting agriculture means being there when this vital industry needs us most."
Emerson said she appreciated people turning out to share their concerns. Along with her stop in Shannon County, her Farm Tour consists of visiting an alpaca ranch, a brewing company, and Emerson's first ever stop at a peanut farm.