State legislators from across Missouri descended upon the state Capitol last Wednesday to kick off the 2024 state legislative session. From now through May 17, these elected leaders will debate and deliberate bills and topics important to them and their constituents. The hope each and every year is for priority issues to be passed by the General Assembly and ultimately land on the Governor’s desk for his signature.

However, many who work in the Capitol believe this upcoming legislative session could be one of the most unproductive sessions to date. There are various reasons cited for the cynical outlook, but the main cause is the simple fact that 2024 features statewide elections with several open seats. Later this year, candidates will vie for multiple statewide offices, including the office of Governor, along with a multitude of state senate and representative seats. Many current office holders are campaigning for these positions, which most predict will lead to a dysfunctional dynamic that features tension between legislators who are competing against each other outside the Capitol walls.

This exasperating situation is where policy meets politics. While real-world issues face Missouri’s citizens, especially our farmers and ranchers, the unfortunate truth is politics and the next potential office sometimes takes precedence over working on core concerns. Despite the pessimism, Missouri Farm Bureau (MOFB) holds true to our values and continues to have vital policy discussions.

MOFB is known for its rigorous policy development process. Our members come together every year to craft policy positions on matters important to the agriculture industry and the rural way of life. When members take a stance, we go to work to bring that policy to fruition through legislative and regulatory processes. Politics is an inescapable aspect of these legitimate policy discussions. However, election-year politics never deter us from having hard conversations regarding the concerns of the countryside.

One of those conversations involves health care. Top of mind this session will be a discussion about health plans sponsored by MOFB. During the last legislative session, we worked with Senator Sandy Crawford and Representative Kurtis Gregory to address one of the biggest challenges facing farmers, ranchers and sole-proprietors: accessing affordable and effective health coverage. This year, we pick up where we left off. We know some people are uninsured or underinsured due to limited individual marketplace options and skyrocketing costs. This legislation provides another coverage option for Missourians. Eight other states have passed legislation enabling their respective state Farm Bureaus to take care of their members in this regard, and Missouri needs to be the ninth.

Another top-of-mind topic for our organization is protecting private property rights. There is nothing more fundamental to owning and operating a farm than property rights, but those rights are constantly under threat. A significant concern today pertains to new utility-related projects, and MOFB is supporting several legislative changes to help address landowner concerns.

One bill would require major electrical utility projects in Missouri, namely high-voltage electrical transmission lines, to receive approval from the General Assembly in addition to obtaining a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity from the Public Service Commission (PSC). Many of these projects are driven by federal green-energy incentives and are not solely for grid reliability. Given the impact these projects have on landowners across the state and the potential increased cost to rate-payers, it should be the responsibility of both the Missouri legislature and the PSC to determine if a project is necessary. Another bill we are pushing for would close a statutory loophole that allows for the misuse of eminent domain authority for solar and wind energy projects.

Policy and politics will always go hand-in-hand, but during this election cycle, MOFB calls upon the legislature to not lose sight of the reason they are in the Capitol. They must continue to make progress on the matters important to Missourians.