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Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft speaks to the Buchanan County Farm Bureau on Monday night at the Ebenezer UMC Fellowship Hall south of St. Joseph.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft on Monday praised farmers as an essential backbone of the U.S. economy, urging them to press ahead with hard work that can influence generations.

The state’s 40th secretary of state spoke at the 2019 Buchanan County Farm Bureau annual meeting, held at the Ebenezer United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall south of St. Joseph.

Ashcroft told the bureau’s members it’s not the purpose of government to tell farmers how to do their job.

“But it’s to create an environment of opportunity for everyone,” he said of government’s role. “We can do that if the government gets out your way.”

He added that farmers are among those groups that can best understand the importance of hard work and the meaning of self-reliance.

“We feed the world,” he said in praising agriculture. “It’s the sweat of your brow.”

In a nod to history, Ashcroft said Missourians owe a debt to the state’s pioneers by continuing to protect freedom.

“I’m a lover of history,” he said, referring to St. Joseph’s links to the Old West through the Pony Express and its fame for having a Carnegie Library.

He also thanked the Future Farmers of America and 4-H for promoting values to youth that can’t be taught via social media.

As the state’s chief election officer, he asked the audience to continue participating as voters. The nation is better off when more points of view are expressed through the ballot box, according to Ashcroft.

“That is your part and opportunity to participate,” he said.

Also at the meeting, Susan Barton received the bureau’s annual Friend of Agriculture award.

Ray Scherer can be reached

at ray.scherer@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.