Senator Sater’s Capitol Report, for the Week of March 26: Agriculture Is the Heart of Southwest Missouri

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Anyone who has grown up in, lived in, or even been to Missouri knows agriculture is the driving force of our state economy. It is statistically and economically the state’s No. 1 industry and food is among the U.S.’s chief exports to other countries around the world. In short, agriculture was and is vital to our state and our country’s past, present and future.

Recently, I read comments made by my good friend Glen Cope, who is a farmer and a great friend of agriculture in Barry County. Glen declared “southwest Missouri is the beef capital of Missouri” and that “southwest Missouri likely has the largest concentration of cow-calf operations in the nation.” Glen’s right. Missouri is the second largest beef-cattle producer in the U.S., behind only the much larger and more populated state of Texas. Southwest Missouri, particularly, has two of the three top cattle-producing counties in Missouri in Lawrence and Barry counties.

I grew up in a world where many of my neighbors farmed and many of my friends grew up on farms. Back in 1870, nearly 50 percent of Americans were employed in agriculture. That number has shrunk to fewer than 2 percent today. On top of that, our farmers are getting older and fewer young people are going into farming. During the past 30 years, the average age of U.S. farmers has grown by nearly eight years, from 50 years to 58 years. It’s harder for our young people to go into farming, and our culture values work on the farm less than our parents and grandparents’ generations did.

Through all of this, southwest Missouri has remained a relative outlier. There are still more family farms in our area than much of the rest of the country, and we continue to value the tremendous contribution of our farmers to our state and country. We know every time we go to the grocery store or sit down at the dinner table, the food we have is there because a farmer worked hard to put it there. Of course, we all worked hard to afford to put it there, but if farmers didn’t till the land and raise the livestock from sun-up to sundown, it wouldn’t matter if we had the money to buy it.

I write all of this to say we are blessed in southwest Missouri. When Glen Cope says we have the largest concentration of beef cattle in the country, it is another way of saying we have the largest concentration of hard-working and dedicated people in the country. Our kids and grandkids still join the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and the 4-H Club. We still have county and ag fairs all over our area where our young people learn and show others what they’ve learned about agriculture. We shouldn’t forget this or take it for granted. Agriculture is and will continue to be the lifeblood of our state’s economy and our economy in southwest Missouri. Let’s take a moment and thank a farmer or remember when we sit down to eat that our neighbors are very likely the reason that our food remains plentiful and affordable.

As always, I welcome your ideas, questions and concerns. You may contact me at the State Capitol as follows: (573) 751-1480, or by writing to Sen. David Sater, Missouri State Capitol, Room 416, Jefferson City, MO 65101.

God bless and thank you for the opportunity to work for you in the Missouri Senate.