U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, recently visited the Cureton Livestock Market in Madison County as the 24th stop on his annual farm tour across Missouri’s 8th Congressional district.
Congressman Smith is traveling all across southern Missouri to talk to farmers about their concerns and the challenges they face.
The Cureton Livestock Market is run by Elizabeth Cureton, who took over the business after her father, Donnie Cureton, passed away. She is one of only a few women who run sale barns across the country. Cureton hopes to pass the business down to her son Cash, 8, who has already been helping, making it a third-generation business.
“I can tell you a farmer knows a lot more about how to take care of their land than some elected bureaucrat in Washington D.C.,” Smith said. “Listening to your concerns, whether it is water … whether it’s the clean power rules, these are the items that I can fight back on whenever we are fighting the EPA or the Department of Ag.”
Smith said he raises cattle and is one of the few left in Congress with an agriculture background.
“Southeast Missouri is rich in agriculture and I do this because in Congress out of 435 members there are less than 75 that represent an Ag Congressional District and we are one of those 75,” Smith said. “So we’ve got to fight to make sure we keep the majority.”
Smith said hearing stories from farmers helps him build his case when he goes back to Washington to negotiate on the district’s behalf.
During his visits this year Smith said a lot of farmers have been asking about the fate of the Farm Bill.
“You know the Farm Bill is in conference and that is something that a lot are very concerned with,” Smith said. “It affects our area in a lot of different ways when you look at the commodity support programs and insurance, drought assistance. They (farmers) have been wanting to know where that is at.”
Smith said the Farm Bill has made its way through the House of Representatives and the Senate but due to changes made by the Senate, the bill is currently in conference where a compromise will have to be reached before going through a second time.
“The House version passed a provision,” Smith said. “The Farm Bill also has the food stamps in it, which is SNAP, it always has because it is food. So we, on the House side, put a provision where if you are an able-bodied healthy adult and you are getting SNAP, you should have to work in order to get it to basically get people off of assistance and working. The Senate passed it where it didn’t have it.”
Smith said farmers have also been thankful for regulations that have been eliminated and have been talking about the labor force.
“A lot of people are not working because their quality of life is better on just full dependence of welfare programs,” Smith said. “We have farms who need employees. That is also where the immigration issue comes in to a different form because if we get less people on government assistance and more people working – more Americans working and less illegals – it works itself out.”
Smith said he hears many different issues along his farm tour, some of which are not even agriculture-related.
“We’ve had many issues over the years on the farm tour,” Smith said. “One of them was baptisms on the Current River. The park service wouldn’t allow churches to give baptisms on the Current River unless they had a special-use permit so we were able to address that to where they never have to do that again. It’s public land.”
Another issue Smith said he has been hearing a lot about has to do with regulations put in place during the Obama administration.
“Basically if you are hauling a load of cattle and you go over 10 hours, then you are going to have to find a place to unload the cattle and have a resting period before you can go on … and it’s harder on the animals,” Smith said. “It’s actually inhumane.”
Smith said they have managed to get the issue delayed a couple of times but it will come back into effect on Sept. 1 if it does not get delayed again.
“That was basically a knee-jerk reaction from New Jersey when there was that trucking accident that caused some problems,” Smith said. “That’s the problem, when I say Washington bureaucrats making up policies when they don’t know how it affects the real world.”
Some issues such as drought are brought up on the tour, and while Smith says he can only pray for rain he still likes to hear the farmers concerns and learn.
“It’s a chance to get with the people and hear from them,” Smith said. “You’ve got to learn and see where you can help.”
Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at firstname.lastname@example.org