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Missouri farmers and ranchers are, for the most part, optimistic heading into 2017 and would overwhelmingly recommend their children follow in their footsteps, according to a survey by Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

Commodity/livestock prices are the top concern of respondents, closely followed by agricultural input costs and government regulations.

For the first time, Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Department of Agriculture surveyed attendees at their respective 2016 annual meetings. Named the "FARMometer" Survey, five questions were asked and 298 farmers and ranchers responded. 

Plans are to make it an annual survey to gauge changes in opinions.

"Even with low grain and livestock prices and the other challenges facing agriculture today, it is not surprising that farmers and ranchers still remain the eternal optimists," said Richard Fordyce, Director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture. "It truly is a great time to be involved in agriculture."

Blake Hurst, president of Missouri Farm Bureau, commented on the survey results, "Missouri's farmers and ranchers are telling us they support public policy efforts to strengthen agricultural markets and reduce unnecessary and costly government regulations. These are among the top priorities of Farm Bureau for 2017."

Question 1 asked what the general outlook is of farmers and ranchers today. 65 percent said they were optimistic, while 8 percent said they were pessimistic. 27 percent had a neutral opinion.

Question 2 asked respondents to rank from a list the top five challenges facing the future of their farming operation. Commodity/livestock prices were the #1 concern, with input costs and government regulations almost identical at #2 and #3 respectively. Activist groups such as the Humane Society of the U.S. were #4, with access to affordable health care close behind at #5. Of the remaining list, securing adequate and affordable land was #6, uncertainty of federal farm programs was #7, succession planning was #8, access to capital was #9, consolidation of input suppliers was #10 and corporate marketing/changing consumer preferences was #11.

Question 3 asked how farmers and ranchers currently receive news/information specifically related to agriculture. Newspapers, radio and television was #1, Internet #2, farm magazines #3, email #4, social media #5, text messages #6 and phone apps #7.

Question 4 asked respondents whether they felt it was part of their job to be involved in agricultural activities outside of their normal farming operations. 98 percent believed they should be active in farm/commodity organizations, 95 percent felt forming relationships with elected officials was important and 99.65 percent (almost unanimous) believed communicating with consumers was vitally important.

Question 5 asked whether the farmer or rancher would recommend their children follow in their footsteps. 91 percent said YES, 7 percent NO and 2 percent no response.

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