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US Agriculture Secretary to visit Lincoln University Monday

Ahead of the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s visit to Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., mid-Missouri farmers and retailers shared concerns about inflation, supply chain issues and expressed a desire for government support.

During his visit, Vilsack is scheduled to focus on how the Biden-Harris administration can partner with local farmers to combat the climate crisis.

However, some residents are hoping other concerns will be addressed. Richard Williams, the owner of Williams Red Angus Farm in Moniteau County, said he is particularly concerned about pollution on large farms. He said the waste resulting from large feedlots has created environmental hazards.

Williams also said he hopes the administration will address the current beef monopoly. Although he acknowledged that everyone needs to make a profit, Williams said corporations shouldn’t be making more money than the farmers who raised the cattle.

“They’ve been making between $500 and $700 a carcass for every fat animal that goes through their plants,” Williams said. “That’s a lot more than what a farmer makes off of raising them and doing the work for a year’s time.”

Kimber Dean, the Co-Owner and Chef of Nourish Cafe & Market in Columbia, said she works with over 30 local farmers throughout the year to order fresh produce and goods for her store. While she’s dealt with supply chain issues with her larger suppliers, she said local farms have been primarily struggling with inflation.

She pointed to the minimum wage and increased delivery fees due to higher gas prices as key issues facing farm operating costs.

“Helping them out financially I know is a big deal because we’ve had farmers just in this year say they are not making a big profit,” Dean said. “They don’t know if they are going to continue. That makes us really sad because we love our farmers.”

Addressing climate, Dean said the volatility in weather patterns has made farming particularly difficult.

“I know farming is really hard,” Dean said. “The seasons have affected our farmers a lot. Not this year so much, but previous years. If it’s been a harder winter or a lot of rain, it’s ruined a lot of crops for us so that’s been an issue.”

Mid-Missouri environmental groups are also reaction to Vilsack's visit.

The Sierra Club is the largest and oldest grassroots advocacy organization in the United States. The group has chapters in several cities across the country, including four groups in Missouri.

Carolyn Amparan is the chair of the Osage Group. She said the group is focused on getting climate action at the local level in Columbia.

"We also look at other things too like protecting greenspace, wildlands, promoting biodiversity and other issues," Amparan said.

The Osage Group and the Sierra Club support climate action by holding educational events and endorsing politicians who support climate change policies. Visits like Vilsack's also provide educational opportunities.

"A visit like this can really help awareness of the role agriculture can play in solving the climate crisis while also providing great benefits for farmers and ranchers to improve their operations and improve the quality of their soil," Amparan said.

Amparan said she is proud of the climate action progress the Biden Administration has made, but she believes it could go even further.

"One thing I would like to see passed, which should be able to gather some bipartisan support is a price on carbon with a rebate or refund to American households," she said.