Winter brings planning; spring brings planting, and summer, as is the case this year, brings prayers for rain. With Independence Day upon us, we also offer up prayers of thanks. The past few summers, it seems like there has been a nonstop weight on the minds of farmers and ranchers. In 2020 and 2021, we stared down a global pandemic – and all of the uncertainty that came with it. Last year, the conflict in Ukraine sent input costs through the roof, causing everyone, especially those in the fields, to sharpen their pencils and adjust their bottom lines. 

Summer 2023 has arrived and nearly the entire state is experiencing at least some level of drought. More than half of the state is feeling the literal heat of “severe” drought conditions. With a hay crop cut by two-thirds, having enough feed for animals now and later this year is a growing concern for ranchers.  

These challenges will continue to weigh on us, but I hope your Independence Day traditions, and the bounty of American agriculture, can overshadow those burdens, at least for a moment.

In the coming days, we’ll have picnics and fireworks thanks to the great American past-time of celebrating our liberty over food and fellowship. Every year, I appreciate the Fourth of July as our family pauses to enjoy homemade ice cream and fireworks.  

Time spent together always centers around food, and, in particular, a loaded grill. Twice each year, for the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving holidays, the American Farm Bureau Federation offers a snapshot of what consumers can expect to pay for their holiday feast. The informal survey looks at what a cookout for 10 people will cost, and this year’s results report costs are down slightly. The $67.73 grocery bill is down 3% from last year’s record high, with the largest drops coming with chicken breasts, lemonade and cookies. Hamburger buns, beef and potato salad are all up slightly from last year, as the drought has driven up beef prices – though not necessarily profits for producers. Poor weather also resulted in a drop in potato production. 

Americans spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than any other country, thanks largely to farmers and ranchers nationwide who continue to shoulder the burdens of input price increases, supply disruptions and government overreach. To be able to put a dozen items ranging from beef, chicken and pork, to potato salad, chocolate chip cookies and strawberries, on the table for less than $7 per person this holiday is a testament to the hard work done daily by Missouri’s farmers and ranchers. 

Over charcoal fires and firecrackers, celebrate America’s Independence Day safely. As you do, take a brief moment to be grateful for our freedom, for our friends and family, and for the blessings we have each day.