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A century of grassroots

In the past 100 years, the average American’s height has increased by more than three inches; our incidence of chronic illnesses has decreased by a third; and our life expectancy has increased by more than it improved in the 20,000 years that ended in 1900. Those historic and unprecedented changes are in large part due to better nutrition and more food.

We’ve seen the percentage of our incomes spent on food go from 40 percent to well under 10 percent. The average supermarket is a testament to the glorious plenty and variety we as American consumers have come to expect. Even the smallest grocery stores contain tens of thousands of varieties of good food produced in enough ways to surely satisfy every possible combination of human wants and needs. It’s a tribute to the productivity, creativity and imagination of the American farmer that our biggest nutritional challenge as a society is too much and not too little.

Farmers have accomplished this not as individuals, but because we learned long ago to work together.

Missouri Farm Bureau is 100 years old. The first state Farm Bureau organized, we’re celebrating our centennial with a bit of history, a lot of pictures, some food (of course) and meetings. Missouri Farm Bureau was organized to support the spread of agricultural knowledge from our land grant college to farmers across the state, and we’ve continued to support Extension as our organization has grown and changed. We help farmers, whether it be by providing services to our members, working to change and improve public policy, or just talking to consumers — that’s everybody who eats — about farming and the people who raise America’s food.

We’ve worked to improve roads, for the conservation of soil and natural resources, and to support young people as they learn. We’ve argued for higher taxes when they’re needed and tax limitation when taxes are high enough. We’ve worked to reform Missouri’s laws on eminent domain, but we also worked to bring electricity to farms. We’ve helped make management of Missouri’s rivers more responsive to the needs of the people who live along those rivers, and we’ve helped pass Farm Bills that have improved and protected our nation’s food supply. We’ve reported the markets, insured hundreds of thousands of cars and farm houses and grain bins and combines. We’ve sold baler twine and tires, and we’ve tweeted and Facebooked and printed a magazine that reaches more than 100,000 Missourians with each issue. Always with just one goal: to make life better for Missouri’s farmers.

Missouri Farm Bureau helped change Missouri’s constitution, supported the election of senators and governors and congressmen and women, and stood up for the rights of Missouri property owners when no one else could or would. We’ve had victories and defeats. We’ve had years when we’ve grown and some when we didn’t, but we’ve always moved forward with the knowledge and the faith we’re doing what our members want us to do. That’s because our marching orders are written by Farm Bureau members all over the state. At our 100th annual meeting this week that is their task again, to decide what we as an organization should try to accomplish over the next year. We will continue the legacy a century of grassroots activism has accomplished. It is something to brag about, something to celebrate. It is the very essence of what it means to be an American.

Blake Hurst, of Westboro, Missouri, is the president of Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.

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