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Missouri Farm Bureau endorses Koster for governor, Hawley for attorney general

For the first time ever, Missouri Farm Bureau members have endorsed a Democrat for statewide office.

Gathered at Farm Bureau headquarters in Jefferson City, they chose Chris Koster for governor over Republican nominee Eric Greitens. The endorsement was based largely on Koster's record on agriculture during both his time as attorney general and as state senator.

"I was the only senator between 2004 and 2008, Republican or Democrat, who had a perfect Farm Bureau voting record," he told the assembled members. "I'm the only candidate in this race who has served on an agriculture committee in the Missouri legislature."

Koster also talked about his backing of the right-to-farm constitutional amendment, and suggested that his support helped win a close contest.

"I traveled around this state, with my friend (Farm Bureau president Blake Hurst), and others in this room, to get Right to Farm passed. We started with a speech right out there in that room, and then we got in an airplane and barnstormed this entire state … and it passed; the right-to-farm amendment passed by a thousand votes, and there are some people in this room - I won't name names because I don't want to take anybody out - who have said that Koster may have brought an extra thousand Democrats with him."

Koster got the Farm Bureau endorsement with 76 percent of the vote, well over the two-thirds needed.

Greitens also spoke to Farm Bureau members before the endorsement vote. He admitted that he had little agricultural experience.

"I will never, ever, ever understand agriculture in the way that all of you do. I didn't grow up on a farm, I didn't grow up on a ranch. I didn't grow up running an agri-business," Greitens said. "(But) we're going to build a team of people who actually understand agriculture, so that they understand how to fight for you and how to work for you."

Credit Marshall Griffin|St. Louis Public Radio
Eric Greitens, Republican nominee for governor, makes his pitch to Missouri Farm Bureau members, but they endorsed Democrat Chris Koster.

He added," It's also why it's very important to me that we get our lieutenant governor (nominee), Mike Parson, elected with me."

Parson, R-Bolivar, owns a farm and cattle operation and sits on the Missouri Senate's agriculture committee.

Farm Bureau leaders, though, did not consider any endorsements in the lieutenant governor's race, but did agree to allow individuals and subgroups to work to elect Parson.

Hawley and Blunt also endorsed

It was a near slam dunk for Josh Hawley, the Republican nominee for attorney general.

He received 97 percent of Farm Bureau members' votes for endorsement. Democrat Teresa Hensley, who on late Thursday night backed out of the event, only got 3 percent.

Hawley told the gathering that agriculture runs in his family.

"My grandfather is the first generation of our family born in the United States," he said."We are Norwegians by background, and his dad homesteaded a family farm, which is still in the family and still farming."

Hawley also said he'd fight over regulation from both the federal and state governments.

"As one of my uncles told me not long ago, the problem with bureaucrats in Washington is they talk about freedom to farm, but what they usually mean is freedom to fail," he said, "because what they want to do is basically treat farms like a public utility and regulate us and you like public utilities."

Roy Blunt also spoke to Farm Bureau members, even though he was endorsed in February. The early endorsement took place due to a recently adopted policy allowing for "friendly incumbent endorsement." He was especially critical of the EPA's "Waters of the United States Rule."

"Every roadside ditch in every one of your counties would be navigable water if the EPA gets its way," he said.

The actual definition of what does and does not constitute a "waterway of the United States" under the new federal rule can be found here.

However, a federal judge last year blocked the new rule from taking effect in Missouri and 12 other states.

You can listen to each candidate's pitch to the Missouri Farm Bureau below.  They are listed in the order they were delivered:

Chris Koster's pitch to Mo. Farm Bureau...includes Q&A session
Roy Blunt's speech to Mo. Farm Bureau...there was no Q&A session since he's already been endorsed.
Josh Hawley's pitch to Mo. Farm Bureau...includes Q&A session

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.