Broadband and property rights top Farm Bureau priorities in 2022 legislative session
Another session of the Missouri General Assembly is upon us, and this year promises to be a busy one. With the redistribution, members running for higher office, and many passionate legislative disagreements, 2022 is not likely to be short of fireworks at the State Capitol.
The Missouri Farm Bureau’s priorities for this year’s session appeal to the roots of who we are as an organization. As the largest agricultural organization in the state and the oldest agricultural office in the state, we believe in supporting farmers and rural communities and giving them the tools they need to be successful.
Our rural communities urgently need investment in infrastructure. One of the most pressing needs is for broadband service that will support businesses and improve the overall quality of life in rural Missouri. Gov. Mike Parson’s plan to invest $ 400 million in federal funds to roll out broadband is a wise use of this one-time infusion. This is a unique opportunity to energize our rural economies, improve access to breakthrough telemedicine capabilities, and bring the next generation home to the farm.
The defense of property rights is perhaps the most fundamental issue championed by Farm Bureau. Without strong property rights, the ability of farmers and ranchers to produce the food, fuel and fiber the world needs could be threatened. Amid historic supply chain disruptions, we need to make sure that we can continue to produce these products locally. In 2022, we will continue to work with lawmakers to end the misuse of the eminent domain. This power should be a last resort. We must limit its use to projects that genuinely benefit the general public. Simply put, a prominent domain should not be used for private gain.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) is a constant partner with farmers and ranchers in our state. For years, MDA’s Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA) has stimulated major growth centers for agriculture through the use of targeted tax credit programs. Credit for ethanol, biodiesel, fuelwood, and livestock processing capacity are essential to our state. These programs have been proven to yield many times their cost. In 2021, a routine sunset extension of programs did not reach the governor’s office. We expect a broad, bipartisan coalition to adopt a renewal of these agendas early in the 2022 session.
We also need to strengthen the abuses of the initiative petition process. Our current system has made it too easy for influencers out of state to buy their place on a ballot. Too often, these special interests cleverly mask radical proposals with deceptive language. We should only change the Missouri constitution when our citizens broadly agree that it is necessary. We will support efforts to protect our constitution from deceptive outside influences.
The next five months will surely bring a lot more controversy, and we will work to make our members’ voices heard in the State Capitol. No matter what comes up, we have to keep an eye on the goal. The Missouri Farm Bureau will work for the good of the people of Missouri and will do everything possible to secure meaningful legislation on the governor’s office.
Garrett Hawkins, a farmer from Appleton City, is the president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farming organization.