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Energy, infrastructure, broadband: Parson outlines agriculture policy goals


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson outlined his agriculture policy goals for the year Thursday, focusing on adapting the state’s technology access and responding to increased energy demand.

Parson addressed his priorities during a virtual legislative event with the Missouri Farm Bureau, touting the state’s efforts to prepare students for the workforce and its emphasis on work-ready programs. He outlined other goals for the year, reiterating his focus on education and workforce development and highlighting rural broadband expansion as another specific priority of his administration.

“When the pandemic hit, we saw and know we have a lot more to do for rural Missouri for broadband, and we’ve got to step our game up,” Parson said. “To be able to compete in the marketplace, to be able to do our farming, to be able to have our kids obtain an education, we’ve got to do a better job. My theory is if we put electricity into everybody’s house, we can put broadband in there. We’ve just got to figure out the solutions to do that.”

Parson also commented on the Midwest’s energy issues stemming from this week’s winter storms, casting doubt on renewable power’s ability to meet the state’s needs and pledging to continue working on the state’s energy infrastructure.

“We all want to take care of the environment, but the reality is we cannot depend on alternative energy in times like this,” he said, outlining issues with pricing and supply in Missouri communities. “We’re going to be calling on some actions on the state level to try and help with that, but I think in the broad picture myself and other governors realize we’ve gotta look at energy as what it is and what the resources are that we have.”

Department of Agriculture Director Chris Chinn outlined her department’s priorities for the year during the event as well, including a series of agricultural tax credits set to expire at the end of the year. A legislative effort to renew the credits is currently underway in the Missouri Senate; the credits were extended to their 2021 deadline by Parson during his last year in the legislature.

“These are really important tools to our rural communities,” she said. “It’s not just to our farms and ranches, it has a lot of impact to the rural community and allows us to have job creation, which is really important and helps maintain a strong rural economy. There’s a lot of local demand for these, and the return on investment has been great.”

Chinn also said the department would focus on navigating its pesticide certification program, working to meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards and regulations, and working with an increased energy cost. She also said the department was seeking a $1.6 million supplemental spending bill to invest in the 2021 Missouri State Fair.