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Legislature to weigh $12 million in new agriculture tax credits

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association and a cadre of other agricultural groups joined lawmakers from around the state today to tout new legislation aimed at incentivizing new farmers to invest in Missouri operations.

House Speaker Pro Tem Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, and Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Lewis County, filed the “Missouri New Farmers Act” in both the House and Senate, respectively.

The bill authorizes $12 million in new tax credits to support new Missouri farmers, lawmakers said.

“There are significant barriers to starting a farm in the United States, including access to credit and affordable land,” Hoskins told reporters. “One Missouri farmer feeds you and 153 other people.”

Much of the bill’s focus is on incentivizing the sale of affordable land to new farmers. Munzlinger said many of the tax credit funds are aimed at offsetting the costs of sale like federal capital gains taxes.

The legislation makes $8 million in tax credits available for the sale of existing farmland to a “new” farmer through the Agricultural Asset Transfer Agreement. An additional $4 million will be made available for existing farmers who hire younger, newer farms to work their land in their stead through the Custom Farming Contract Tax Credit. The bill will also create a Beginning Farmer’s Center at the University of Missouri extension.

Munzlinger and Hoskins both indicated that Iowa — which has a Beginning Farmer’s Center and other incentive in place for new farmers — served as inspiration for the legislation. Both lawmakers said it was their hope that the bills would not morph into omnibus bills weighed down by other agricultural issues. Agriculture bills, while relatively popular among the majority of members in the legislature, have struggled in recent years to keep controversial issues from finding their way into their text by way of last-minute amendments.

New farmers are defined in the bill not by age, but as individuals who have been engaged in farming for less than 10 years. The USDA lists the average age of a Missouri farmer at 56, one year younger than the national average of 57.

Dr. Scott Brown, assistant research professor for Agriculture and Applied Economics at the University of Missouri, said that soaring land prices have proved a burden to start-up farmers, and that he believed such prices could “soften” in the face of legislation like the Missouri New Farmers Act.

Hoskins and Munzlinger also said that they hoped the bill would not get caught up in a broader debate about state tax credit programs, which some lawmakers have said are in serious need of cuts and revisions. Hoskins, who is a member of leadership with growing clout, will likely be able to ferry the bill at least part of the way through the legislative process with few roadblocks. Munzlinger, who will chair the Senate committee for Agriculture, is similarly well positioned to advance the bills.

The MCA was joined at the conference by a wide array of agricultural groups including the Missouri Corn Growers Associations, Missouri Dairy Association, Missouri Farm Bureau Federation, Missouri Pork Producers Association, Missouri Soybean Association.

The legislation is Senate Bill 177 and House Bill 387.