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Congressman Jason Smith, R-Salem, stopped at Kranjec Valley Angus Farm in Marquand, Tuesday as the 22nd stop of his Farm Tour.

Smith has been making an agricultural stop in each of the 30 counties within his congressional district as a way to keep in touch with his constituents and learn about the issues they face.

"These things help so much because it allows me to remember issues and put experiences up whenever we are debating policy," Smith said. "It's one of my favorite times of the year."

Smith said the August recess is when most are going to Tahiti or Aruba, but he thinks Southeast Missouri is the best place to be. He said, for the last seven years he's made it a focus to hit all 30 counties during his break and he challenges his team to find different aspects of agriculture throughout the district.

"We have the most diverse district in the entire state of Missouri," Smith said. "It's ranged from a rice farm down in the bootheel, an elk farm in Ste. Gen, to an incredible angus operation right here in Madison County."

Smith said agriculture is the number one economic driver for the congressional district and for the entire state of Missouri.

"We can't always fix things, but I can always remember the issue when we are having the debate and try to persuade on the issues effecting us," Smith said. "There's some great successes from people telling us their troubles on their farms."

Smith said, during the 2016 farm tour, he took 17 issues to President Donald Trump and since then more than half have been resolved.

"So when people think that sometimes you are just going around to look at a cow, it's about going around and listening to the concerns of the people," Smith said. "I have 752,000 bosses, it's kind of a tough job because you don't make them all happy, but you know that you try to do what's right and what you told people you were going to do if you got sent to Washington."

As an angus cattle farmer himself, Smith felt right at home as Ivan Kranjec gave him the full tour of his cattle ranch. Kranjec explained the farm has been using embryo and in vitro fertilization.

He said its been a very aggressive type of work they are doing to try and get somewhere rapidly.

"We try very hard," Kranjec said. "We try to do everything by the computers, but we also have very good relationships with the companies and the people that we work with. Each and every animal is selected for the bull so we can actually benefit and have a better calf. We do DNA. We believe that DNA, it's not everything, but it's the closest thing we can do to bypass any man made things that are in it because the blood don't lie."

Kranjec has come a long way since he immigrated from Croatia 50 years ago. He said his brother, Bob, came to America with a friend in 1958 during the Hungarian Revolution.

Kranjec said his family would listen to the radio every evening at 8 and turn on the only free program they had, other than communist propaganda, it was from America.

"These boys decided to escape and my sister's husband owned a house by the border and they knew when the guards were changing," Kranjec said. "They told them they would tell them how to escape over the boarder to Austria."

Kranjec said his mother was crying and worried about these two 17-year-old kids going to look for America when they did not even know where this country was.

"Father said 'you boys find that country that is called America but don't forget us,'" Kranjec said. "Ten years later they came back to tell use we can celebrate a Christmas in America."

Kranjec said they made plans to get out and waited for their time to come to America legally. He said the family became American citizens and are all proud.

"You Americans, it's your country, you have a right to tell me if you wanted me to come here and if you don't," Kranjec said. "My brother had to sign papers that we would have a place to stay and that he would find a job and that we wouldn't take any government subsidy. It's been like that for 50 years."

Krnajec said he may be an immigrant, but he is a very proud American and believes that everyone needs to wait their turn. He said Americans are big-hearted people when it comes to helping foreigners and he never dreamed of anything like it. 

"We started from suitcase and we are where we are," Kranjec said. "This country has opportunities left and right."

The room full of about 50 farmers and community members erupted in cheer. The evening ended with a dinner of angus beef provided by the Cattleman's Association and questions from the crowd.

Before Smith left the farm, the issue of feral hogs was brought up by several of the farmers in attendance. 

"My team is sick of me talking about feral hogs," Smith said. "I have a strong belief that we have to do everything we can to eradicate them and that means using every approach possible. Not just trapping."

Smith said the feral hog issue began in Iron County, and he remembers visiting a farm there last year and seeing the issue. He said the farmer took him to a trap and said putting the traps in was the biggest mistake because he can not shoot the hogs that are outside the trap.

"That doesn't make sense if we truly want to eradicate these hogs, and I've shared this with the forest service and conservation numerous times," Smith said. "If we only do trapping, then we are going to breed a very smart trap hog that is going to reproduce and reproduce and you're going to see a real problem. It's a big issue."

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Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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