As a fourth-generation family farm owner myself, I take special pride in representing and fighting for the thousands of farming families which call southern Missouri home. We have some of the most diverse and unique agriculture found anywhere in the country and I constantly remind those who have never set foot in our area that if they want to see real Americans working day in and day out from sunrise to sunset, then come to rural Missouri and see what hard work really is. This week kicked off the start of my annual summer visits to different farming and Ag industry related businesses across the 30 counties which make up our United States Congressional District. Spending my summer crisscrossing southern Missouri and meeting with the different farmers, business owners and their customers is always the highlight of my year. These summer visits are a tradition I have carried out every year I have had the honor of representing you and your family before the U.S. Congress. It’s an opportunity to highlight not only the vibrant and diverse agricultural community here in southern Missouri, but to recognize the dedicated and talented farmers, workers, and families that live throughout our area. The meetings, visits, and townhall style forums give me the chance to hear people’s thoughts, ideas and feedback with all aspects of government and how I can help. I find these conversations invaluable as they generate the policy proposals that I am able to share with my colleagues and the White House about how to best help rural America continue to succeed. Most recently, past summer stops have been critical to helping President Trump identify the most intrusive government regulations impeding our nation’s farmers while also providing the feedback I could share with the White House about what needs and challenges our area farmers have in reaching new markets.
I’ll never forget in the winter of 2016, less than five months after the conclusion of my summer farm visits, meeting with then President-Elect Donald Trump’s team and providing them with regulation after regulation that farmers in southern Missouri had told me were impeding their ability to operate. Then, over the President’s first year in office, he directly repealed, suspended, or removed more than half of the regulations identified by our area farmers. These included a number of onerous regulations put in place by the Obama-Biden Administration, like the disastrous Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which attempted to place unobtainable and costly federal restrictions on any body of water passing through or standing on private land. Since then, whenever I meet with President Trump, he always asks me what I’m hearing from farmers and how his administration can help. Best of all, the President’s team continues to listen to our concerns. When he took office, the President pledged to remove two regulations for every new one he had to add, but in reality, he has been removing SEVEN for every new one added. All told, he has removed thousands of pages of regulations which were holding back American farmers and families, saving the average household over $3,000 per year in regulatory costs. This directly contrasts with the Obama-Biden White House which added 4,000 new Environmental Protection Agency regulations alone, growing the federal register by 33,000 pages in just new environmental compliance regulations! No family farming operation could be expected to keep up with that!
The value in these farm visits for me doesn’t just stop with a regulatory repeal agenda. Last year, when the President was tearing up NAFTA and working on a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, I told him the feedback I was getting from those in the dairy farm business about the importance of fighting back against Canada’s unfair tactics. After hearing this, his team quickly and skillfully received concessions needed to ensure American dairy products would no longer face unfair retaliation in the marketplace. Beyond dairy, I meet monthly both in the United States Capitol and at the White House with the President’s trade team to discuss expanding market access for Missouri’s farmers. Whether that’s getting China to agree to $80 billion in U.S. agricultural purchases in the coming year, doubling their current purchases, or removing barriers to market access in places like Japan, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, President Trump and his administration have made our farmers a priority in all of their negotiations. Furthermore, the Trump Administration has been incredibly receptive to a number of policy suggestions to help our farmers I have provided to them since the coronavirus outbreak began. Whether it was access to low-interest farm loans, providing additional funding for broadband access, working to make permanent the temporary regulatory relief enacted, or holding price gougers hurting our farmers accountable, the President continues to prioritize the concerns of our farmers, families, and small businesses.
While my summer farm visits are just getting started, I’m truly excited to be back out on the road and eager to hear what new ideas our regions hardest workers have. The new challenges of today are like nothing our areas economy have ever before faced. Learning how our farmers are navigating this new reality, what more help they need in re-opening and what fights I can continue to wage on their behalf are what have me excited to continue this journey each day. Beyond the coronavirus, Missouri farmers face new threats to our way of living each an everyday, from things like the green new deal which would get rid of our tractors and our cattle, to new proposals to raise taxes on farming families, our battle against those who don’t understand how their food gets on their plate each day and why we don’t have mass famine here in this great country will never rest. I know that more needs to be done not just here in Missouri, but all across our country to truly make sure our farming economy is running as it should and that a customer base for our Missouri home grown products remains strong. I look forward to reconnecting with so many of you this summer and hope to see you while I’m out and about.
U.S. Rep. Jason Smith is the area’s state representative for the 8th Congressional District.