By Eric Bohl, director of public affairs for Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization
Missouri Farm Bureau’s second annual FARMometer survey showed a number of positive trends in the attitudes of our state’s farmers and ranchers. The 1,200-plus attendees at MFB’s Annual Meeting at Tan-Tar-A in early December were polled on a number of agriculture-related topics, with the questions identical to last year’s inaugural survey.
Overall, more than 76 percent of respondents have an optimistic outlook for 2018, up from just 65 percent last year. Fewer than four percent had a negative outlook, and 20 percent were neutral. Even with abnormally low prices for most commodities and livestock for a fourth consecutive year, it appears expectations are on the upswing.
For a second straight year, farmers and ranchers named those low commodity and livestock prices as their top concern out of eleven choices. Access to affordable healthcare rose to second place after being fifth last year, reflecting soaring premium prices and the flight of providers from rural Missouri. High input prices fell from second to third place.
The fastest climbing concern on the list was corporate marketing and changing consumer preferences, rising from last place in 2016 to number six this year. Farmers have faced a growing onslaught of marketing messages that both directly and indirectly attack common practices, including attacks on biotechnology, animal health and welfare and the usage of common pesticides and weed control products. Much of this year’s MFB Annual Meeting focused on the actions we can all take to help educate our friends and neighbors about the work we do as farmers and ranchers, and to tell our story about caring for animals and the land.
MFB members remain extremely engaged in their communities. On each item, more than 97 percent of respondents said they feel it is part of their job to be active in farm and commodity organizations, form relationships with elected officials and communicate with consumers. Missouri has one of the most active and involved Farm Bureaus across the nation, and these attitudes certainly reflect that spirit.
This year also saw an uptick in the percentage of farmers and ranchers who would recommend their children follow in their footsteps, at over 93.5 percent of respondents, an increase from 91 percent last year. Perhaps the recent dramatic reduction of the Estate Tax, which occurred after the survey was completed, will drive this number even higher next year.
Farmers and ranchers have a reputation for being unshakably optimistic about the future, always thinking that next year can be better than this year. The numbers show that this reputation continues to hold true in Missouri.
This Op-Ed originally appeared on The Missouri Times.