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Jason Smith Column

Congressman Jason Smith

As the unofficial ending to summer has arrived, I am thinking how lucky I was to be able to spend the summer traveling throughout southern Missouri and getting time with the farmers, families, and local agricultural businesses who proudly call our area home. The industry and ingenuity I have seen is a testament to the hardworking nature of our community.

The connections made, feedback received, ideas generated, and questions answered at family farms, Ag townhall forums, and business visits have provided me with excellent material to share with my colleagues and the White House about how we can ensure rural America’s continued success. Many of the farmers I met have worked on their land for generations, like Art and Margaret Stark of Iron County, who have owned their family farm for 50 years.

My conversations were centered around government regulations at all levels and how they interfere with the livelihood of everyday Americans. At Front Street Farms in Wayne County, I met with Darin and Sarah Hampton and saw their high-tunnel farming operation that takes place on a half-acre of land.

They get so much use out of their small area but raised concerns about facing the same type of overbearing regulations that are leveraged against much larger farming operations. I share their concerns, and it is yet another example of how Washington’s “one-size-fits-all” approach does not work.

In Madison County, I visited with Ivan Kranjec. He fled Socialist Yugoslavia in 1969 and came to the United States because he knew he could make a better life here. He has owned Kranjec Valley Angus Farms for 32 years and like so many other Missouri farmers, he is concerned about the spread of feral hogs. I have spoken with numerous farmers in southern Missouri about this problem — and we all know the same thing — trapping isn’t enough. That is why I believe we should pursue an “all of the above” approach to combating feral hogs including the hunting of hogs on National Forest lands. The government should not be limiting how farmers can protect their property; instead, they should be offering them every tool and resource.

Thankfully, President Trump is committed to rolling back intrusive federal level regulations that hurt America’s farmers. I have had many opportunities to speak with him about deregulation, and the first three years of his administration have been a blessing for hardworking Missourians. One of our biggest accomplishments was the repeal of President Obama’s “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, which seized huge swaths of farmers’ lands and waters for government control.

Here in southern Missouri, we know farmers and private citizens, not government officials, are the best stewards of our natural resources. Farmers like Josh Wisdom of Spring Creek Farms in Dent County. He talked about the stream that runs through his property and his concerns about government interference stemming from the WOTUS Rule.

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Josh already takes excellent care of his stream, and his family makes it a priority to best utilize their land while maintaining its natural resources and beauty. There is no need for a distant bureaucrat to tell them what to do, especially when regulations often do more harm than good.

At each stop, I hear directly from farmers about the most pressing issues they face, the ideas they have, and how I can help. I often conclude each day with a different Agricultural focused public forum in a different area. These agricultural summits can have upwards of 50 participants and are important to allow me to hear directly from farmers and businesses. I heard from many of them how accessing a skilled workforce remains an issue.

There are great jobs available on farms across southern Missouri, but often government programs offer more incentive for people to sit at home instead of going out to get a job. This is hampering the ability of businesses to grow their operations. We also discussed important issues like global market access for Missouri farmers, recent flooding and ways to continue to grow and promote our Agri tourism businesses.

I was also grateful that many of our site visits this year had participation from state officials, including Governor Parson, Lt. Governor Kehoe and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Senator Blunt and local representatives from the General Assembly, and even a member of President Trump’s cabinet — EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler — who traveled to facilities with me earlier this summer and will be an essential ally in repealing regulations that hurt Missouri’s farmers.

I routinely dedicate my summers, when Congress is not voting, to personally visit as many different farms, families, and agricultural related small businesses I can. Southern Missouri is home to a vibrant and diverse agricultural community that faces unique challenges to continued growth and success.

These meetings, visits and forums with a multitude of farmers and stakeholders provide me with the opportunity for substantial conversations to foster ideas, hear concerns, and generate feedback for when I return to Washington. Nobody knows better than our farmers what rural America needs to continue its success. I’m honored to be their Representative and to fight for the preservation of our farms, our families and our way of life each day.

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