Saline County Farm Bureau holds annual dinner meeting

Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Missouri Farm Bureau vice-president Todd Hays spoke to a large crowd at the annual Saline County dinner meeting.

A large crowd attended the Saline County Farm Bureau annual dinner meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9, at the Saline County Fairground Multipurpose Building.

Local president Vince Buck introduced the speaker for the evening, Missouri Farm Bureau Vice President Todd Hays.

Hays is a farmer from Monroe City, running a family row-crop and farrow to finish hog operation, along with his wife and two children.

"We are very fortunate they both have grown up on the family farming operation, " he said, adding he is a 5th generation farmer. "I don't take it for granted that I have that opportunity and we work hard everyday at that."

He touched on several different issues the MFB has been working on this year.

One has been the challenging natural disasters which Missouri has endured this year, including the flooding in southeast Missouri, tornado in Joplin, current flooding of the Missouri River and now a drought, especially in southwest Missouri.

"Our organization has spent a lot of time and money responding to natural disasters," he said.

"It's been tough in a lot of ways."

He said in July he had the chance to tour areas in New Madrid County which were flooded this spring when the Army Corps of Engineers blew up the levee to protect the town of Cairo, Ill.

"It amazed me to see how farmers have already gotten in and cleaned up the fields," he said. "They had already been planting a lot of soybeans and up to that time they were still planting as water was receding."

He said over 90 percent of those acres will probably be planted this year, mostly in soybeans.

"It just goes back to show us as farmers, we get out there and do what we have to do," he said. "We're not waiting for anybody else to try to overcome obstacles that have been put in front of us."

Farm Bureau is working to make sure the Corps gets temporary levees in place so the farmers can plant a crop in 2012. He said they also would work towards getting the permanent levees built.

One of the issues he said was very important to Farm Bureau was securing trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

"These combined agreements mean $2.5 billion in additional agriculture exports to our country," he said. "The key point is 96 percent of the consumers in the world live somewhere else."

He said exports account for about 25 percent of the cash receipts in U.S. agriculture. He encouraged attendees to tell legislators to "get this done."

"It's good for agriculture, its good for us," he said.

Farm Bureau members were encouraged to fill out a survey, which was available at the dinner. Hays said there were many issues facing agriculture and MFB wanted to "hear your thoughts, we are your organization."

He said the surveys will be used to help give guidance to the FB delegate body in December.

One of the issues which Congress will soon debate is the 2012 farm bill.

"A lot of folks that don't care much about agriculture much are going to try to cut a lot of programs," he said. "I'm not saying we don't need to change some of the things we are doing possibly."

He said, however, that farm programs account for only 1/2 of one percent of the federal budget. "They can't balance the budget off farmers and ranchers," he said.

He said the survey would be used to gauge what members think the farm bill should contain.

"We would like to know from folks, 'What are their priorities?' We want to do what is important to you," he said. "We want to get input from everybody we can and try to make the decision."

Hays also talked about Proposition B, also known as the Puppy Mill Initiative, which was backed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). It passed by a very small margin, with an overwhelming split between rural and urban voters.

In the last session, several state legislators introduced bills to completely repeal or just tweak the law.

Eventually, a compromise bill, approved by farming groups and the Missouri Humane Society was recently signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon. HSUS did not back the compromise.

Now the HSUS is trying to get a new ballot initiative before voters in 2012, according to Hays. It would require a three-quarters majority of votes for the legislature to amend or appeal any statute enacted by citizen's initiative.

"This is not good for the state of Missouri," said Hays. "I think we have to put some trust in the folks in Jefferson City that they will make the right decision when the time comes. I think they showed that with Proposition B and the compromise."

Hays said one of the "positive" things going on in agriculture is the increase of farmers who are telling others about "what they are doing." He noted a recent survey which showed that farmers are the second most trusted people, behind the family doctor.

However, he said sometimes farmers get so wrapped up in their day to day work they don't take time to talk to consumers.

Farm Bureau provides a training program for people interested in learning more how to "talk to people about what we are doing."

He said, however, people didn't have to train or even speak to large groups, they could tell people about farming, "one on one."

"We have so many relatives now who live in the city, who just know how it was when Grandma and Grandpa had the farm. They may not understand what we are doing now," he said. "We don't want to confuse them about everything, but when we have an opportunity we need to tell them what we are doing and why we do it."

He relayed a personal story about a time when someone asked him him if a feed additive he fed to pigs is a hormone.

"The message I had to her was, 'I raise pigs and I butcher my own pigs to feed my family,'" he said. "'I'm not going to feed my pigs something harmful.'"

After Hays speech, the group voted to approve local board members Vince Buck, Dean Phegley, Myron Steffens, Brent Sandidge and David Copeland, after a nomination by board member Joe Miller.

Vince Buck was again elected president and Dean Phegley as treasurer. Other board officers are Rick Kiehl, vice-president and Kaye Wright, secretary.