The Missouri legislature passed two omnibus farm bills in the wee hours of its session. Senate Bill 506 was agreed to on Thursday evening, while similar language in House Bill 1326 was passed on Friday afternoon. Republican Representative Casey Guernsey tells Brownfield the House version was sent to Governor Nixon “with huge bi-partisan support.”
One of the features of the measure works with the federal dairy margin protection program. That allows dairymen to insure the difference between the milk price and the cost of feed from $4 to $8 per hundredweight.
“We authorized (Missouri dairy farmers) the ability to buy in up to $8 and the state will reimburse those premiums, which will authorize them through the existing USDA program to expand their protection to whatever level they actually need based on their breakeven point on the farm,” Guernsey told Brownfield Ag News Friday at the Missouri State Capitol.
Guernsey, who indicates that he won’t run for another term, says the dairy legislation was important to him.
“We’ve had various other issues, but for me personally, having come from a dairy background, this is sort of on my bucket list of things that I wanted to accomplish,” said Guernsey, “something for the dairy farmer.”
Another feature of the omnibus bills is that hauling limits for livestock will be increased from 80,000 pounds to 85,500 pounds. It also strikes language currently in Missouri statute prohibiting Missouri beef producers from establishing a state beef checkoff. It allows producers to vote whether or not they want to establish a state beef checkoff. Passage of the bills has drawn praise from the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association and from the Missouri Farm Bureau.
“We think that cattle producers should have the opportunity to vote on a state beef checkoff, and we also support helping dairy farmers to be able to participate,” said Leslie Holloway, state and local governmental affairs director for the Missouri Farm Bureau. “Dairy has been having such a struggle and we’ve been losing dairies almost by the minute in Missouri, and this, we hope, will help to maintain the dairy production in Missouri.”
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Brian Munzlinger tells Brownfield combining the ag issues is efficient.
“An omnibus bill is where we take a lot of bills that we’ve already heard in committee over the year, or we take the ones that fit the title of the bill and we put them together,” said Munzlinger, in his Capitol office Friday. “It seems to take less floor time, but it also causes the group to hang together to get the ag bills passed.”
A big issue within the two bills is the classification of captive deer as livestock, therefore putting them under the purview of Missouri Department of Agriculture. Munzlinger says it makes sense to classify captive deer similarly to captive elk, which he says have been under agriculture since 1996.
“Moving deer over there would allow those deer farmers to have a market for their meat,” said Munzlinger, “right now conservation doesn’t allow them to do that.”
He adds that it would allow the state veterinarian, which is housed under the Missouri Department of Agriculture, to have some oversight in the health of captive deer.
Both bills are awaiting the Governor’s signature.
The Missouri legislative session was scheduled to end Friday evening.