Our Opinion: Helping Missouri’s family farms

A bill to help family farms, we believe, would help strengthen a struggling segment of Missouri's No. 1 industry.

Agriculture is our state's top industry, but family farms have struggled for years, as corporate farms gain more of a foothold.

Under a bill being sponsored by Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, more Missouri family farms could qualify for government loans under a bill being considered in the Missouri Legislature.

The bill would modify the family farm livestock program by allowing farms with up to $500,000 in gross sales to qualify for certain loans. Currently, the program is restricted to farms earning only up to $250,000.

Bernskoetter's bill is one of several in the legislature designed to help the state's legacy farms to survive and grow.

As we reported Tuesday, of all farm producers in the United States, only 8 percent are younger than 35, according to data from the 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture's Census of Agriculture. In 2017, 10 percent of Missouri's farmers were younger than 35.

"A lot of the people that have the opportunity leave because they don't want to be stuck," Ted Bruemmer, a fourth-generation farmer, said in our Tuesday story. "If you can incentivize somebody to do that (stay at a family farm), maybe more people will take the chance or take the opportunity."

Sinking government money into struggling industries isn't always a good idea.

Government could have propped up the traditional film camera industry, for example, but it would have been money down the drain. When newer technologies arise, they replace old technologies -- and old industries that rely on them.

But while family farms have decreased, we don't see them dying any time soon. Helping the industry will continue to help keep agriculture our state's top industry.

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