Agriculture is Missouri’s predominant industry and MO-4 is one of the most rural districts in our state and country. With that as a backdrop, I set out on my annual Farm Tour to highlight agricultural operations throughout our district.

Day 1 launched my 15-stop Farm Tour at the Lenz Brothers Dairy Farm near Bunceton. The owners currently have 80 cows providing milk for the school lunch program in the region. Expansion plans are in the works with the goal to eventually have 400 cows. In September they will begin construction on a facility to modernize and provide even more nutritious milk to area families.

After that, a visit to the Weiker Angus Ranch in rural Howard County gave me the chance to talk to farmers about the need to pass the USMCA (United States, Mexico, Canada) trade agreement. We also discussed tariffs and the need to ensure U.S. producers have access to all markets.

Then, at a roundtable at the University of Missouri’s Bradford Research Center in Columbia, we heard from presenters who talked about the facility and the great work being done there to improve the lives of animals and humans. One animal science project studied how improving animal reproductive health is helping them discover how to improve human reproductive health. The cutting-edge research occurring at Bradford will benefit the whole country and the world.

Later, I led the first of three resource sessions conducted on my Farm Tour. We heard from the USDA, USDA Rural Development, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Department of Economic Development, and Missouri Department of Agriculture on how smaller communities with less funding can apply for government loans and grants. Many communities are facing challenges upgrading wastewater and drinking water systems and can benefit from monies coming from the federal government to assist them in complying with current regulations.  In addition, participants learned of other grants and loans available to assist with energy projects, businesses growth, rural broadband expansion, and new community facility construction.

The final event of our first day was the Randolph County Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Cairo. In addition to enjoying a wonderful delicious meal, I spoke to attendees about a number of important agricultural accomplishments, including the Farm Bill that we passed last year.

Day 2 began at the Cackle Hatchery in Lebanon. This family-owned operation, which has been up and running since 1936, offers more than 200 varieties of poultry which they ship throughout the United States.

My next stop, Swank Lavender Farm, opened in 2017 not long after its owners moved to Missouri from Illinois. Lavender oil not only is popular due to its wonderful, calming aroma, but is also in demand for bug bites, burns, and stings among other things. The lavender field is made up of 850 plants and rests on a half-acre site. They have plans to expand in the near future.  I was excited to learn about this family-owned business and wish them the best as they grow and expand.

While in Seymour, I dropped into the C-Highway Produce Auction. This auction house was established in 2008 with the purpose of selling produce and providing a market for interested growers. The auction is aimed primarily at wholesale buyers that include roadside stands, area restaurants, and farm markets. Auction days vary from month to month, with the site open on Tuesdays and Fridays through October.

The day ended with a dinner at the Cass County Farm Bureau’s Annual Meeting, where I spoke to attendees about some of the accomplishments Congress has made on behalf of agriculture and some of the challenges that remain.

Day 3 started with our third and final USDA Rural Development roundtable in Butler, MO, and more sharing of important information on loans and grants available to address such important issues as water and wastewater systems and the availability of broadband Internet in rural communities. These information sessions have been valuable to the stakeholders who were able to attend. Knowledge is power and it was great to be able to host a forum for USDA and Rural Development and Missouri DNR to communicate this information.

The poultry industry took center stage at our next stop in Cole Camp as I met with growers and processors to discuss trade issues and their impact on business. Like our beef, dairy, pork and other industries, poultry producers are keeping a close watch on trade agreements and other developments in Washington. We discussed the need for immigration reform in the agriculture sector.

Next stop: onto Sedalia and an Agribusiness Roundtable with members and agribusiness students taking part in this discussion. The students were from State Fair Community College’s agribusiness program. While at SFCC, I toured their Potter-Ewing Agriculture Building, where students engage in a combination of classroom hours and occupational internships designed to teach them skills they will need to succeed.  It was encouraging to see so many young people interested in careers in agriculture and to visit with agribusinesses in the district.

The finale of this year’s Farm Tour was a Farm Service Agency (FSA) event in Harrisonville with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson from Minnesota. This was a roundtable event at which we discussed Market Facilitation Program (MFP), Farm Bill implementation, trade, disaster assistance, conservation, and other issues of importance to those involved in agriculture.

This was a very comprehensive tour of some of the best MO-4 agriculture has to offer. I shared information with my constituents and, in turn, received some great information to take with me when I return to Washington in September. I am already looking forward to next year’s tour.

The gift of reading

I was happy to visit the Cass County Public Library to deliver a boxload of books from the Library of Congress in Washington. While making the delivery, I did something I enjoy so much – reading to children at the library. We read “Clifford goes to Washington” and “House Mouse, Senate Mouse” among others. Reading is critical to success, and it was a privilege to read to these young children to encourage them to continue reading throughout their life.

Service Academy Information day

I want to remind everyone about the upcoming Service Academy Information Day scheduled for Sept. 7, in Lebanon. This event is for students who are considering one of the United States Military Academies, allowing them to meet  representatives of the various service academies and to ask any questions they may have. The event takes place at the Lebanon-Laclede County Library on Saturday, Sept. 7, between 2 and 4 p.m. I look forward to seeing our promising young students at this information session.

Weekly dose of good news

Sedalia will soon be welcoming about 100 jobs through Exam One, a new technology business that will open a call center there this month. Exam One, whose primary function is laboratory testing and pharmaceutical collection, has offices throughout North America. The Sedalia call center will collect health history information from consumers applying for life insurance and connect them with insurance companies. The decision to locate this important facility in Sedalia is yet another example of the quality work force we have throughout MO-4. Welcome to our district!

Yours in service,

Vicky Hartzler

Member of Congress