Agriculture is the lifeblood of this state and it is certainly the economic engine of the 21st Senatorial District. Missouri agriculture is an $88 billion industry and $9 billion of that comes from my District. These numbers don’t even include the labor income or the tax revenue generated for our District. When you think about the economic impact of agriculture to our communities, you must look beyond the farm. Everything from the bank to the local diner to the gas station to our schools depend on this economic activity.
When it comes to agriculture, its impact far surpasses dollars and cents, but I’m an accountant and my mind gravitates in that direction rather quickly. This is about food, right? I cannot think of another industry more vital to sustaining life on this planet. That’s a big deal. We will need to produce more food in the next 40 years than in the previous 10,000 years combined. Academics arrive at this number not only because of the anticipated population growth but also enhanced demand that comes from higher standards of living caused by reduced poverty.
If our farm and ranch families are going to meet this challenge, we must be innovative and embrace sound science and technology that allow us to do more with less. State and federal laws heavily regulate confined animal feeding operations and these farms are at an extremely high level of oversight. Farmers and ranchers take the risk of being at this level of scrutiny because it’s a family thing. It is one way to add opportunities for the next generation to come back to the family farm. Closing our minds to these opportunities will hurt our communities, state, country and even the world when it comes to food production. We have to repopulate the land with the next generation or I cannot even begin to describe the woes. The average age of a farmer in Missouri is nearing 60 and only 5 percent are 35 years-old or younger. This is a frightening statistic from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Questioning something new or different is good. You should ask questions. I know I had several questions from constituents about the Valley Oaks family farm in Johnson County. This family is on a quest to expand their feeding and processing capacity in order to meet growing demands for locally raised beef in the greater Kansas City area. Instead of trucking the cattle out-of-state to be fed and processed, this family wants to keep that value right here in Missouri.
When I get questions from constituents, I do something about it. I visited and toured the Valley Oaks facility and asked a lot of questions. I learned more about the state and federal regulations in place and saw firsthand what this family is doing to ensure success. Success means more than profitability. Success translates into sustainability. This family needs to ensure they are good stewards of the land and its resources in order for this business to have longevity and be passed to the next generation.
This family lives in our community and desires to be good neighbors. I sincerely respect your concerns and I ask that you take the time to tour this family business. I also want you to attend the Department of Natural Resources public hearing on April 3, 2018, at 6 p.m. at the Warrensburg Community Center. Ask tough questions. Get engaged. But please be open-minded and willing to accept science over emotion. If we want to advance Missouri agriculture, we have to embrace technology and opportunities for the next generation.
As the legislative session moves forward, The Missouri Senate is focused on passing bills that are truly in the best interest of all Missourians. This past week, we were able to move forward with numerous common sense proposals that encourage access and invite new sources of revenue into state revenue.
In keeping with the interest of Missouri’s number one industry, agriculture, the Missouri Senate passed Senate Bill 547 this week. The bill creates a pilot program that grants farmers permissions to produce and purchase hemp in Missouri. Under the proposal, the Department of Agriculture would regulate the production and marketing of hemp. I believe this proposal will allow us to expand Missouri’s agricultural landscape and provide our farmers with a new source of revenue.
The bill would also ensure hemp growers are not subjected to federal laws under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. Currently, hemp is classified among drugs such as cannabis, despite the fact it contains less than three percent of THC. Currently, there are 34 states who have enacted hemp bills, issuing nearly 1,500 licenses to produce the crop.
Hemp can be used for a variety of products. For example, hemp is used to create rope, clothing articles, food and even building materials. If passed, this bill would not only be an increase in revenue for farmers, but also reiterates the importance of recycling to Missourians. Hemp can be recycled up to seven times, helping to create a safer and more sustainable environment.
The Missouri Senate approved Senate Bill 882, a bill that modifies the Missouri Higher Education Savings Program to allow Missouri 529 account holders to transfer money from their account to a MO ABLE account without a tax penalty. Recent changes to the federal tax code are what have prompted us to mirror this legislation pertaining to MO ABLE and educational savings accounts for continuity with what is now allowed by the federal government.
By allowing the transfer without the tax penalty, a family who receives an unexpected diagnosis that changes their life plan has more options in order to make smart, financial decisions for their child’s educational and medical expenses. This will allow for a future of economic self-sufficiency for Missourians with disabilities, and present opportunities to improve their quality of life.
This bill is one more step toward providing those with disabilities economic independence. The bill now heads to the Missouri House of Representatives for further approval.
The Missouri Senate gave initial approval to Senate Bill 773. This legislation extends the nonresident tax arts and entertainment allocation for ten years, starting on December 31, 2020. This tax is imposed on out-of-state entertainers who visit Missouri, making it possible for children across the state to be exposed to arts and cultural events they may otherwise not have access to. For many youth, art is an avenue of expression helping them to channel their emotions and showcase their talents.
The arts and entertainment tax is allocated to five cultural partners including the Missouri Arts Council Trust Fund, Humanities Council Trust Fund, State Library Networking Fund, Public Television Broadcasting Corporation Special Fund and the Historic Preservation Revolving Fund. In fiscal year 2017, the state allocated $4.8 million dollars to the Missouri Arts Council who were able to assist 552 arts-centered nonprofits and organizations with grants. Through these programs, the state was able to generate $47 million in revenue, attract 21.4 million tourists and create more than 31,000 jobs. The Missouri Arts Council provides and funds art activities all over the state.
As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-4302. You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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