Advocating for Agriculture
July 21, 2016
Written By Ashley McCarty
Giving legs to the motto “Stronger Together,” MFA Oil fills a key role with Missouri Farmers Care (MFC), a joint effort of Missouri’s farming and agriculture community to stand together for the men and women who provide the food and jobs on which communities depend. The coalition works statewide to foster opportunities in agriculture and build student and consumer literacy of agriculture and food production.
Formed in 2010, MFC now comprises 38 commodity associations, trade organizations and agribusinesses, which represent the vast majority of the state’s farmers and ranchers. Members share the mission of promoting the continued growth of Missouri agriculture.
MFA Oil serves on the executive board of MFC, providing resources and guidance to the coalition.
“Missouri Farmers Care is playing a necessary role in educating the public, including local and state leaders, about the importance of agriculture within our state,” says James Greer, MFA Oil vice president of supply and government affairs. “MFA Oil is proud to be working with the coalition to ensure the long-term viability of Missouri farmers and our rural communities.”
Because more and more people grow up without ever setting foot on a farm, there is plenty of opportunity for confusion and misunderstanding when it comes to agriculture. This is why public outreach is a primary focus of MFC.
Agriculture’s productivity and efficiency increases over the past 100-plus years have enabled many families to move to town or pursue careers off the farm. While this diversification of our economy is a strength, it leaves many of us disconnected from the farm, often by generations. Farm families understand this distance impacts people’s understanding of the realities of farm life. We begin bridging this knowledge divide through education, communication and advocacy.
Investing in the Future
Through Ag Education on the Move (AEOTM), passionate educators teach third graders about agriculture and farm families through hands-on learning experiences. While addressing classroom objectives and state standards, students learn about crops, livestock, soil and water conservation, nutrition, and agricultural careers during the interactive 10-week program.
“When incorporated with science, history, writing and reading, agriculture can truly make an exciting and lasting impact on a child. From planting seeds to baking bread students learn through doing, and it is a wonderful thing,” says Luella Gregory, AEOTM program director.
Students have the opportunity to create corn plastic, edible soil profiles, feed rations, butter and more. Hands-on visuals enhance their experience, as students explore cattle feed samples, ear tag systems, GPS units, and other crop and livestock byproducts. Through interactive lesson plans, students often take a virtual tour of beef, dairy, pork and poultry farms and learn the process from farm to table.
In addition to in-classroom programming, MFC sponsors tours for teachers to explore crop and livestock farms and agribusinesses in their area. Regional farm tours allow teachers to experience first-hand agriculture important to their region.
AEOTM has had more than 200,000 impressions since its beginning in 2011 with the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and soybean checkoff. Program efforts have an impact in communities across Missouri and continue to expand to urban areas and to enhance understanding of agriculture and its unique opportunities and challenges.
Swinging for the Fences with Cardinals Baseball
Outside the classroom, MFA Oil and its partners in MFC have joined forces for an awareness and outreach campaign with the St. Louis Cardinals. Now in its seventh year, Race to the Plate connects St. Louis Cardinals fans with farm families who raise their food, fiber and fuel, linking them to trusted sources for their questions about agriculture and their food.
Race to the Plate runs through the regular season and, hopefully, into the postseason. Radio spots air during each of the Cardinals’ regular season games on more than 140 Cardinals Radio Network stations spread across Missouri and neighboring states. Fans in the stands can enjoy watching the action during each Friday night home game as corn, soybean, dairy and pork mascots put it all on the line in a race to the plate for bragging rights. In-stadium videos highlight facts about modern pork, dairy, soybean and corn production.
To warm up for the race, the Farm Team mascots, Captain Cornelius, Simon the Soybean, Sweet Bessie and the newest team member The Baconeer, can be found posing for pictures and answering questions about agriculture and food production. With average attendance at Friday games nearing 45,000, the second-highest attendance in Major League Baseball, and each game garnering more than 150,000 fans tuning in over the airwaves, Missouri agriculture’s positive messages hit a home run with an estimated 3.5 million consumers each season.
“Whether sitting down to dinner with your family or grabbing a bite at the ballpark, we want everyone to feel confident that farmers have their best interests in mind,” says Becky Frankenbach, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council director of communications and coalition coordinator. “This partnership with the St. Louis Cardinals shares insight on how farm families produce food and fuel and builds conversation and trust on how food is produced.”
Equipped for Growth
MFC’s newest initiative creates a partnership between coalition groups and Missouri counties. The Agri-Ready County Designation recognizes counties that actively support agriculture by establishing an environment and policies conducive to agricultural business success. MFC launched the Agri-Ready County Designation program in December 2015. Out of the gate, six counties have become designated: Audrain, Carroll, Dallas, Chariton, Cooper and Cole with more applications under consideration.
“Agriculture is the lifeblood of our economy as our state’s number-one economic engine,” says MFC Chairman Alan Wessler, D.V.M. “The Agri-Ready designation supports the role that all farms, ranches and agribusinesses play in the state’s economic health, but in particular our strong family farmer contingent. Agri-Ready County Designation provides a sense of certainty to family operations and agribusinesses, equipping them to grow and plan for the future.”
County commissions must apply for designation, attesting to their willingness to promote agricultural stewardship, growth and opportunity and that the county does not have any ordinances that discourage, limit or restrict agricultural operations. Once a county achieves designation, MFC members use their extensive networks and available resources to promote the state’s Agri-Ready counties and encourage and equip business entities to locate and do business in the growing list of Agri-Ready designated counties.
As the Agri-Ready program continues to build momentum, additional components will be offered to designated counties to enhance economic development, recruitment and entrepreneurship and equip students with the skills they need to be successful in the local workforce.
The Agri-Ready County Designation harnesses the potential for a strong partnership between MFC and leaders who know agriculture is important to the long-term viability of their county. Creating opportunities for innovation and expansion of agribusinesses, farms and ranches will benefit families, communities and Missouri.