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From The House
House Committee Works to Bolster Missouri Agriculture Industry
Our state is blessed with a strong tradition of family farming and a long history of commitment to creating policies that allow our agriculture industry to thrive. It’s that commitment that has allowed each generation of family farmers to not only survive but also thrive throughout the years. Pro-agricultural policies have allowed Missouri to become one of the top states in the nation when it comes to the number of family farms we have and the many agricultural products they offer ranging from soybeans to corn to livestock. Our farmers feed not only Missourians and Americans, but people from other parts of the world as well. This global success has turned agriculture into a multi-billion dollar industry in Missouri and made it an even more vital part of our state’s economy. For that reason we continue to develop policies that support the growth and expansion of this industry that has become a huge success because of the efforts of hard-working Missouri families.

The session that ended in May of this year saw the legislature address a few of the key issues facing Missouri’s agriculture industry. We passed a piece of legislation (SB 931) designed to add more fuel to the economic engine that is our agriculture industry. This bill doubled the amount of credits for family farm livestock loans. It also created a dairy business planning grant program to help existing dairy farms in Missouri to modernize and expand. In addition, the legislation addressed an important issue concerning many farmers who feared what might happen if Missouri mandated registration under the federal National Animal Identification System. Our legislation makes it clear there will be no mandate and that participation in the system is optional. With this bill, we give farmers some additional financial help while also freeing them from some of the overly burdensome requirements that could hurt their profit margins.

Of course, even with the success of the piece of legislation passed earlier this year, there are still issues that must be addressed if we are to continue to help Missouri farmers. To give the Missouri General Assembly a head start on how to address these issues, this interim we formed an interim committee to take a closer look at the current state of the agriculture industry. The House Interim Committee on Emerging Issues in Agriculture, of which I am a member of, will spend the next several weeks meeting with farmers and other members of the industry from around the state to learn more about the problems they face as well as possible solutions to those problems. The goal of the committee is to use this information to make recommendations to the legislature that will ultimately take the form of legislation.

While the committee is in the early stages of assessing the situation, we already know it will spend a considerable amount of time discussing ways to sustain the livestock and biofuels industries in Missouri. Two years ago we passed legislation to require all gas stations in our state to sell a 10 percent ethanol blend whenever it is no more expensive than traditional gasoline. While that has meant booming business for grain producers, livestock owners claim it has driven animal feed prices up to a point where it may force some out of business. The challenge for the committee is to study the issue carefully in order to find the balance necessary to sustain both industries. It is imperative that we keep the agriculture industry from being split down the middle between proponents of using products for fuel versus those wanting to use them for food. The Emerging Issues in Agriculture Committee will spend the next few months doing their best to find that happy medium.

In addition to that major agenda item, the committee will take a closer look at who should be allowed to regulate animal feeding operations in Missouri. Many cities and counties have developed their own ordinances for these farms and the issue has caused a split in the agriculture community in regard to how this should be handled. The committee will do its best in the coming months to find solutions that satisfy all sides on this issue and others.

As I said, our state has a long and rich history of agricultural success and our goal as a legislature is to continue that success with effective policies. The 2009 session looks to be one that will address these major issues on the minds of many farmers and I will look forward to keeping you up to date in the coming months as more becomes clear on these issues. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office at (573) 751-1446 or by e-mail at david.day@house.mo.gov. You can also contact me through my website at www.StateRepDay.com.

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