Being an old farm boy himself, U.S. Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer is no stranger to rural ideas, beliefs and community. On Aug. 29, he took to the streets of Elsberry when he met with local Elsberry FFA students to discuss just how important agriculture is to the country and their way of life.
“I grew up in a town of 300 people so I’ve raised a lot of hog and cattle. Actually I still have a small cattle farm outside of town,” explained Luetkemeyer. “I feel very connected to the rural way of life and the rural values that come from that.”
As the country has evolved, agriculture has gone to a bigger more corporate style of a business model versus the old family farms, according to him. As a result, the mass production that goes along with that and all the ways they produce crops right now have allowed them to become a kind of the “under the radar type of industry.”
“Because they are very effective at producing an abundance of high quality, safe and very cheap amounts of food, we take it all for granted,” said Luetkemeyer. “If we have a short supply of it or if it is extremely expensive we would find out exactly how important agriculture is.”
But right now because they do provide all this under the radar type of atmosphere, people don’t really understand anything about agriculture, which makes it difficult to pass Bills such as the Farm Bill or helping others understand the importance of the bill or what it can do to the agriculture communities and the food supply in general.
“When I talk to Ag groups, I always talk to them about the importance of being able to advertise and promote their industry because if you don’t do that then other people can’t connect the dots and see how important agriculture is to our society,” said Luetkemeyer. “If you stop and think about it there are at least one, if not three generations removed from the farm. We were a very agronomy orientated society a hundred years ago and now we are more service industry orientated.”
According to Luetkemeyer, farming takes a different kind of personality in order to be a good farmer.
“Imagine a farmer in his position where he can’t regulate the input cost of whatever he’s producing and he can’t regulate the cost of the product when he sells it and he can’t regulate the weather or any other regulations that go on,” said Luetkemeyer. “Everything he is doing is out of his control, yet he’s involved trying to make a living and produce a product here that is necessary for our way of life.”
Because of that, Luetkemeyer said there is a value system in place such as self-reliance, honesty, hard work, a deep work ethic to be a success and the ability to be a businessman.
“You have to be everything from a veterinarian, to a agronomists to a mechanic,” said Luetkemeyer. “When you talk about the value system its adherent in the farming community because of the environment they work in from the stand point of trying to work within an area that is basically beyond their control.”
It was these thoughts and ideas that Luetkemeyer took to the students of the FFA and it was these thoughts they shared with him.
“We didn’t have these kind of groups when I was a kid, though I wish we had,” said Luetkemeyer. “I think what groups, like the FFA, do for kids today is beyond remarkable.”
Luetkemeyer said one of the greatest benefits to being a part of groups like the FFA is that it really gives kids the chance to work and understand just how important they are to the future of agriculture.
“It’s amazing to me that we, even in a time of Facebook and social media, have kids who know what it means to earn and work,” said Luetkemeyer. “It’s also great to see that the same ideas and principals I grew up on can still be seen today.”