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Agriculture groups encourage legislators to pass broadband legislation, renew tax credits 

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s agriculture groups gathered in the state Capitol Tuesday to advocate for issues facing the industry, from broadband access to expiring tax credits

Janie Dunning, a consultant on broadband issues for the Missouri Farm Bureau, testified before lawmakers advocating for legislative measures to enhance coverage across the state. According to Dunning, 29 percent of American farms do not have reliable access to the internet.  

“Broadband is the one area of infrastructure that can affect and improve all of the pieces that we’re lacking. It’s one thing that if we had adequate broadband, we can help farmers and ranchers in a lot of different areas,” she said. “Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Missouri. We are going to fall behind at some point in time if we do not address the inadequacy of our broadband for farmers and ranchers.”

Representatives from the Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Corngrowers, the Midwest Hemp Association, the University of Missouri Extension, and other groups gathered to discuss policy and impacts before the Joint Committee on Agriculture Tuesday afternoon, testifying on issues ranging from economic development to federal regulations. A recurring focus throughout most of the seven presentations was the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Authority (MASBDA) tax credits, several of which expire at the end of the year. 

“Getting those done, whether it’s before they expire at the end of the year or shortly thereafter, we’re going to be in conversation and are very supportive of that, and hope this committee can help foster that along to get that done,” Scott Swain testified on behalf of the Missouri Soybean Association. 

The legislature failed to progress a bill that would have renewed the credits through the end of the 2027 fiscal year. The House Budget Committee noted last week that the credits were still being administered through the end of this year. 

Another concern echoed Tuesday was eminent domain policy directed at the multi-state Grain Belt Express project. Despite support from leadership in both chambers and members of the executive branch, the Senate failed to pass a bill directed at the wind energy project. 

After seven rounds of testimony over three hours, committee chair Rep. Mike Haffner said the legislature had plenty to consider going into the next legislative session. 

“The length of this meeting tells me how much work we have to do legislatively here during this next session,” Haffner said. “Of our 14 priority bills, 12 did not make it across the finish line — our plate is going to be full.”

The next committee hearing is to be held on Sept. 9. Haffner said the follow-up will concentrate on economic development and Missourians’ outlook on the industry. The committee will compile a report for the legislature by the start of the next session. 

Broadband has been a focus of the Missouri Legislature, even between sessions. The House Interim Committee on Broadband Development is meeting monthly through December to consider best practices to increase broadband access in the state’s rural areas. Missouri is ranked No. 32 in broadband access compared to the rest of the country.