Agriculture affects us all

Friday, March 8, 2013
Murray Bishoff, news editor

The announcement about the closing of Dairy Farmers of America operations in Monett and the two agriculture conferences hosted by the Monett Chamber of Commerce this week underlined the importance of agriculture to the local economy.

The DFA plant originally began as Producers Creamery in 1948. Local dairymen went to Springfield to tell the milk processor that the Monett area could support its own plant, rather than hauling milk daily to Springfield.

This is not the first time the Monett plant has closed. Producers Creamery left the scene, shutting the plant down from 1971 to 1974, according to Bob Huffman, DFA's plant manager. Mid-America Dairymen started the plant back up again, and it eventually turned into DFA.

So, there is precedent for a comeback, even if the formula and the faces change with time.

At a moment like this, we see quite clearly the interconnections that relate various parts of our community. Dairy farmers rely on someone to process their product. Milk haulers and plant workers have jobs because of the dairy farms. Another army of employees at Schreiber Foods have jobs to process the milk into cheese. These are neighbors who shop in Monett stores, whose children go to local schools, and so on.

Businesses making and selling feed for the cows, other farmers growing hay and grain and families buying the milk make the circle complete.

We're all part of the village. Agriculture may not be as pivotal to the economy as it was 75 or 100 years ago, but when agriculture hurts, we're all going to feel it.

The announcement of the DFA closing comes less than seven months after word that Hydro Aluminum would shutter its extrusion operation. Monett had felt immune to such volatility until these last rounds.

At times like these, it pays to remember how connected we are and to support each other any way we can, Monett has extended a hand to help and can get ready to do it again.

It also pays to remember agriculture is still important to the community. Families that care for the land and whose labors bring food to our tables are still crucially important to the economy. We may not feel the impact of their labor keenly every day, but we certainly miss them if they are gone.