No one stress or concern in farm country bothers all. Topics vary by where you are, farm to farm, and where you are in the life cycle of a farm.
Farmers, agribusiness leaders and lenders gathered to share ideas July 7 at the Audrain County 4-H Center, Mexico. It is one of seven listening sessions across the state. The theme is “Current Financial Situation for Missouri Agriculture.”
One concern was for young farmers who bought expensive land to start farming. They now face falling farm commodity prices.
Lenders noted difficulty already for some to pay loans. Some farmers already draw on equity for operating costs. However, others noted that farmers are a hardy lot who maintain optimism in the face of uncertain economic outlooks.
Topics ranged from value-added farm products to population growth, food production and exports.
Comments by producers and panelists in the first of the seven listening session gave a hint of concerns.
Attendees’ comments hinted at dilemmas facing policymakers. University of Missouri Extension and the Missouri Department of Agriculture joined to seek advice in farming areas across the state.
Weather, mentioned often, concerns all. When meetings were planned, drought was a major concern. At the first meeting, heavy rains with windstorms were on the minds of those gathered.
Unpredictable, volatile and uncertain were words that fit both weather and economic outlooks.
Planners will collect comments to shape future public policies and MU Extension education programs.
Scott Brown, MU agricultural economist, gave a commodity and global trade outlook. He reminded listeners: These long-term projections won’t be correct. “Things change,” he said.
After the first session, Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Richard Fordyce said listening sessions were something needed to be done often.
At the opening of the session, Rob Kallenbach, MU Extension agriculture and natural resources program director, welcomed participants and asked for frank and free discussion. “Nothing is off the table,” he said.
Fordyce said the collected concerns would be shared at a four-state meeting in St. Joseph after similar meetings are held in Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. The results of that meeting will be presented to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a national gathering.
The organizers packed up and headed to a similar hearing at Rock Port, Mo., Thursday evening, followed by third session at Excelsior Springs Friday morning.
The remaining two meetings, times, locations and local contacts are:
-July 13, 6:30-9 p.m., MU Extension Center in St. Charles County, 260 Brown Road, St. Peters. Ken Bolte, 636-583-5141, and Rachael Hopkins, 573-438-2671.
-July 14, 9:30 a.m.-noon, Kirksville (Mo.) Department of Conservation Regional Office, 3500 S. Baltimore. Darla Campbell, 660-457-3469, and Joe Koenen, 660-947-2705.
The meetings are free and open to the public.
From the first meeting, every listener could take home a separate set of concerns to consider. Local organizer Mary Sobba (573-581-3231 or SobbaM@missouri.edu) urged people to not quit thinking. She asked for written thoughts following the meeting.
Responses will be requested across the state.