Nixon budget cuts anger agriculture industry

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Jay Nixon’s most recent budget withholds have angered the state’s agriculture industry.

Last week Nixon cut more than $4 million from state agriculture programs as part of a larger budget cut package. That included $2.9 million from the deferred biodiesel subsidy transfer and $1 million for the dairy revitalization program.

“In his haste to respond to decisions made by our legislature, Governor Nixon has fallen into the trap of robbing Peter to pay Paul,” said Gary Wheeler, executive director of the Missouri Soybean Association. “Cutting the dollars budgeted to repay debt under Missouri’s Qualified Biodiesel Producer Incentive Fund only serves to kick that particular can down the road to the next administration.”

The soybean association said the biodiesel fund is currently almost $10 million in arrears. And Nixon’s budget cuts this month and in July affected money the legislature had provided to fully repay the debts.

“In the business world, we are required to pay our debts. We appreciate that the legislature understands the State of Missouri should be no different,” Wheeler said. “Governor Nixon has been quick to recognize the jobs and economic impact our soybean farmers and biodiesel plants generate, but is now attempting to leave those same folks holding the bill while he exits stage left. It’s a shameful parting gift to those in agriculture who not only supported him the last eight years, but who have also already paid the taxes associated with that $9.6 million.”

The dairy cuts have also lead to anger. After several efforts, 2015’s Missouri Dairy Revitalization Act passed the legislature and was approved by Nixon.

But last week, he basically gutted the program by removing the more than $1 million targeted to increase education about the industry, which has been hit hard by falling milk prices across the country.

At his monthly budget briefing, Interim Budget Director Dan Haug said the state would have to see 5.5 percent growth for the budget to be balanced and significantly higher growth for withholds – like the biodiesel and dairy withholds – to be released.

At this point, that type of revenue growth seems unlikely. State revenues decreased 1.4 percent in August this year compared to the same month in 2016.