Audrain County Farm Bureau members met Tuesday to reflect on the past year in agriculture.

The evening’s speakers, county President Clarissa Cauthorn and Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst, spoke about what has been a difficult year for many Missouri farmers, due to factors like flooding and the ongoing trade war.

"It seems like [the year] has been very long for us, right?" Cauthorn said. "Let's keep in mind as we go into the next year that we [hope to] have less prevented planting, better cattle prices, less Twitter and a few more trade deals."

FFA students from Centralia High School presented a skit, which won at state-level competition, on the pros and cons of collegiate and professional live-animal mascots. They will perform the skit at the national convention in October as part of a competition.

Cauthorn recognized board members, Farm Bureau insurance agents and staff, congressional staffers and county elected officials who were in the audience. She then welcomed Hurst to the podium. His speech focused on efforts to address farming issues related to this year's flooding.

"I spent today with the governor's task force on flooding [and Army Corps of Engineers representatives]," he said. "Around 1.2 million acres were underwater this summer. Missouri was the fourth highest on number of acres of prevented planting."

A large portion of the discussion focused on river management, including pinch points, which are areas that always flood when the river reaches flood levels. Areas where these points or levies were destroyed will have at least two to three years of reduced flooding protection, which will make those croplands considered as high-risk areas with regard to crop insurance, Hurst said.

"It will make it prohibitive for [farmers to plant] next year, so it's a real challenge. We'll continue to visit, we'll continue to go to meetings," he said.

Hurst was to meet Wednesday with the civilian head of the Army Corps of Engineers R.D. James and United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in St. Louis as part of a listening session.

Hurst said he will continue promoting the importance of the ethanol to President Donald Trump’s administration and is glad to work with people like James who understand the perspectives of area farmers.

"The good news is R.D. James gets it,” Hurst said. “He's been involved with Mississippi River management his whole life. He's a farmer from Southeast Missouri.”

People like James who are at the helm of the Corps will steer the Trump administration to make good decisions on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, he said. The administration also has the interests of environmental groups and other states along the rivers to consider.

Missouri’s natural resources and agriculture departments came together to partner with neighboring states to work through conflicting goals, Hurst said.

"[Other states] would like water to stay in reservoirs, because they need it in the summertime,” he said. “We'd like to empty the reservoirs in the spring. It's just a very difficult situation we find ourselves when we're pitted against upstream states.”

Hurst said he is cautiously optimistic about the results of trade negotiations, especially the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement. The agreement is a modified version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, known as NATO. The administration says the new agreement will create a more balanced, reciprocal trade arrangement that supports high-paying jobs for Americans and grows the North American economy, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representatives.

"There's enough votes in Congress to pass it,” he said. “Obviously, the Senate will pass it. There's enough votes in the House. We have to get enough votes from the Democratic side that Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi feels comfortable bringing forth.”

Hurst also decried the temporary restraining order preventing Missouri Senate Bill 391 from taking effect. The law would prevent county commissions and county health departments from enacting health ordinances related to farming that are more stringent than state standards. It has been opposed by groups of rural residents and county governments that want additional regulations on fertilizer application and large-scale livestock producers like concentrated animal feeding operations, known as CAFOs.

The Cooper County Health Board and Cedar County Commission sued the state and three agricultural groups, seeking to stop the new CAFO law. A Cole County judge issued a restraining order, which stops the state from enforcing the law, and stops the Missouri Farm Bureau, and Cattlemen's and Pork Producers associations from suing counties with regulations until the lawsuit is resolved.

Hurst said the law clearly stipulates that previously existing county regulations will not stand after it goes into effect, which was initially scheduled for Thursday.

"The legal argument is so foolish, you can't hardly believe [the opposition is] making this argument, he said.

cdunlap@gatehousemedia.com