All three candidates competing to become the next occupant of the Missouri Senate 34th District seat have chosen to make agriculture a major plank of their campaigns.
Republicans Harry Roberts and Tony Luetkemeyer face off in the party’s Tuesday, Aug. 7, primary. Democrat Martin T. Rucker II has no opponent in his party’s primary and is standing by for election of the opponent he’ll have for the Tuesday, Nov. 6, general election. The winner will succeed Sen. Rob Schaaf, who is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election.
Roberts has taken two steps toward outlining his focus on farm issues. He has yard signs that proclaim “Farmers For Harry” which have been placed at various locations across Buchanan and Platte counties. On Thursday, he announced formation of a “Farmers For Harry” Coalition, encompassing 16 farmers from both of the district’s counties who endorse his candidacy.
“He understands the issues facing Missouri farmers,” said Vernon Hart, who chairs the coalition.
The idea for particular signs to announce the rural-based coalition derived from within the campaign, said Roberts.
“We had so many farmers that wanted to support us,” he said. “I thought it’d be a great message. ... Ag is just a huge part of Northwest Missouri. ... We need someone who grew up here, who understands the issues ... especially agriculture issues.”
He said he supports new Gov. Mike Parson for championing a right-to-farm effort for Missouri that led to a new law in 2014 geared toward protecting the industry from perceived interference by special interests.
Luetkemeyer said agriculture is the state’s top industry and bears particular importance to the district. He frames his beliefs against support from the Missouri Soybean Association and Missouri Corn Growers Association. He operates a fifth-generation farm and said his father was a 33-year civil servant with the USDA.
“I believe in stopping regulations that unreasonably interfere with the rights of farmers,” Luetkemeyer said, adding he plans to stand beside the state’s agriculture organizations and producers in helping to create favorable farm policies and thwarting outside interests.
Rucker said he recognizes the equality of rural areas when compared to urban ones based on the role farmers play in feeding residents. He pledged to stress preservation of the family farm as part of his campaign.
“One of the things I’ll be focusing on is local control,” he said, referring to what he termed as interference by foreign ownership and government regulation. “Farmers aren’t even allowed to fix their own tractors.”
Knocking on residential doors has been an election trait practiced so far by Rucker, who said he intends to be seen more often in farm communities in the months ahead.
Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said the organization has a longstanding policy of not endorsing candidates during the primaries. But he voiced appreciation that the trio has made agriculture a front-burner issue in the campaign and that they’ve reached out to the Farm Bureau to discuss the issues.
Soon after the Republican primary, Hurst said the district’s Farm Bureau board directors will meet to prepare for endorsing a candidate for the general election. That process, he said, will include a questionnaire and interviews.