The Right to Farm and Ranch Amendment, foreign ownership of farmland, a new transportation sales tax, term limits, a new state beef checkoff, confidentiality of crop production data and a legal challenge to California’s state law on eggs were among the major issues discussed this year at Missouri Farm Bureau’s 99th Annual Meeting. Almost 1,100 members representing Missouri’s 113 county Farm Bureaus attended the meeting at the Lake of the Ozarks this week.
“There are many state and national issues on the minds of farmers these days that are important to the future of agriculture. At the forefront is approval by Missouri voters of Constitutional Amendment #1, Keep Missouri Farming, that will give constitutional protection to responsible and lawful farming practices,” said Blake Hurst, president of Missouri Farm Bureau. “At this year’s annual meeting we began discussing our game plan for passage of the amendment in 2014.”
During the debate on policy positions, more than 400 voting delegates expressed concern with the newly enacted state law that repeals Missouri’s long-standing and Farm Bureau-supported prohibition on foreign ownership of farmland. The new law allows up to 1 percent foreign ownership. Delegates adopted a policy opposing foreign ownership of Missouri farmland, thereby encouraging state legislators to revisit this issue in 2014.
Delegates voted to support efforts to place on the 2014 ballot a one-cent sales tax earmarked for transportation with a 10-year sunset clause. The policy went on to withhold Missouri Farm Bureau’s endorsement of the sales tax proposal until it is assured the funds are distributed fairly between the rural and urban areas and the funds will be used for road and bridge projects identified with considerable local input and support.
State legislative term limits were also on the minds of Farm Bureau delegates. A policy was adopted to support allowing state legislators to serve up to 16 years in the Senate, House or any combination thereof. Similar legislation was debated in the 2013 legislative session. Currently Missourians are restricted to serving eight years in the Senate and eight years in the House.
The delegates voted to support a voluntary state beef check-off program in addition to the current one dollar national beef check-off. Delegates believe the process should be transparent, approved by a referendum and efforts made to educate all Missouri cattle producers about the voter registration process required by State statute to participate in a check-off referendum. The new funds should be administered by the Missouri Beef Industry Council and only be used for promotion, education and research programs and not for legislative or lobbying purposes.
With satellite technology available today to accumulate real-time crop yield data from combine yield monitors, a policy was adopted stating that farmers should own whatever data is generated from their farms, that farmers should be compensated for their data when shared with third parties and that compilations of yield data should be shared with farmers who helped generate the data and only used for developing yield estimates with the farmers’ knowledge and permission.
Policy was adopted supporting legal action announced during Missouri Farm Bureau’s annual meeting by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster challenging California’s state law prohibiting the sale of eggs from out-of-state that are not produced in compliance with production standards that are as strict as California’s. In his remarks, the attorney general also announced that Missouri will join American Farm Bureau Federation’s litigation challenging EPA’s water quality initiative that preempts state authority by imposing regulatory restrictions directly affecting farmers and ranchers in the Chesapeake Bay area.
Approximately 500 policy positions, new and renewed, were adopted at Missouri Farm Bureau’s annual meeting. Other major issues are as follows: renew call for Congressional approval of a Farm Bill, oppose making the state director of agriculture an elected position, Support state efforts to revitalize Missouri’s dairy industry; including programs to assist dairy farmers, enhance dairy consumption in school nutrition programs and the repeal of the “Unfair Milk Practices Act.” Call for holding utilities to height, width and depth standards that accommodate modern farming practices, including subsoiling and chisel plowing. Oppose implementation of Common Core education standards at the state and federal levels. Encourage U.S. Forest Service officials to maximize their efforts in addressing oak decline within the Mark Twain National Forest that would optimize forest health while increasing rural economic growth. Urge the Missouri Department of Conservation to assist landowners in eradicating wildlife that damages property or threatens human safety. Oppose allowing third class counties to adopt county building codes. Support for Renewable Fuel Standards 2 as passed by Congress. Oppose allowing school districts to exceed 15 percent cap on bonding. Support for increased Congressional oversight of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service river mitigation projects. Urge the Department of Natural Resources to establish a streamlined process for declassifying waters that should not be classified under new classification standards.