D ear Neighbor,
You pass by our local business daily, even though we don’t have a storefront on Main Street. You drive by our production lines to and from work each day, although you probably just call them fields. You probably don’t give much thought at all to the corn, cattle and soybeans we are raising.
It would probably surprise you to know, that right here in Linn County, MO, a recent economic impact study concluded that $126.6 million in sales is created each year by the local farm families and that 1,173 jobs are supported by those sales. For a rural county, with total population just over 12,000, those numbers are rather significant.
On a national level, the US Grain Council highlights that agriculture accounts for 20% of the US economy and creates more manufacturing jobs than any other sector. In total, more than 21 million jobs are supported by agriculture.
Even with those numbers, we are often left out of the conversations around our economy and local growth and business. That’s on us more than you – we don’t always make ourselves as available as we should. We often struggle to get away from the farm to tell our own stories and sometimes we get aggravated with those who don’t understand our livelihood.
Right now though, we need you to know something. We need you to know that we need NAFTA.
Last fall, I was at the high school football game, where a neighbor was complaining about “grocery store beef”. Like so many others, he seemed surprised when I explained that our beef IS that grocery store beef. Our family is dependent on a much larger market than our local market.
Like most farming communities around the county, we raise more product than could ever be consumed locally, even with the trendiness of it all. Farms tend to be where people are not.
As of 2012 census, we had over 46,000 head of cattle in our county. That’s nearly 4 times our human population. The local crew could never consume all that beef. The same holds true for the corn and soybeans and other products we raise.
Your local farm families – your American farm families – happen to be extremely good at what they do. The best in the world by most measures. NAFTA - the North American Free Trade Agreement, makes trade with some of our largest partners - Canada and Mexico - more efficient. And trade is vital to the success of American agriculture.
US Grains Council points out that the sale of corn to Mexico has went up 847% since the start of NAFTA. Missouri is uniquely at risk. In 2016 alone, 69% of our ag exports went to NAFTA trade partners which makes us the 5th highest state for percentage of exports effected by the agreement. The US Chamber of Commerce estimates that 8.2% of Missouri job are connected to NAFTA trade.
Your local farm families are entering our fourth year of an agriculture downturn. The USDA reports that farm income has decreased 42% over the last three years. Many of your local farmers are not in a financial position to withstand the economic blow that would be delivered from a withdrawal. Young farm families like my own would be hit the hardest.
We love the communities we call home, and we are passionate about helping rural communities thrive. In order for our local business to continue to have strong impact on our rural economies, we need you to know that #NAFTAworks. And we need you to share your support with our elected officials.
Your Local Farm Family
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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