This year’s legislative session was historic for Missouri agriculture. The General Assembly passed many bills supporting farming and addressing concerns in rural communities.
The biggest victory for family farmers was the passage of SB 391. This new law prevents counties from implementing local ordinances “that are inconsistent with or more stringent than” Missouri Department of Natural Resources regulations on animal operations. Some counties have enacted anti-agriculture ordinances based on fear mongering rather than science. Ensuring that regulations are science-based is best for animals, the environment and the rural economy.
Expanding broadband access will also help our rural communities grow in the modern economy. MOFB has been a leading proponent of increased broadband access for several years. In January, Governor Parson suggested a $5 million appropriation to the Rural Broadband Development Fund. This fund will offer grants to defray installation costs to bring broadband to unserved or underserved areas. The legislature chose to fully fund this request, which is a huge win for rural Missouri.
Wind and solar energy are becoming more widespread across Missouri. The legislature acted to ensure tax revenue from commercial wind farms remain in local communities. Under prior law, these taxes would have been taken out of the local area and spread thinly across the state. The people who host the wind and solar farms should also get their tax benefit.
Governor Parson also spearheaded a plan to repair 215 bridges across Missouri through a $301 million bonding proposal. This plan will only move forward if Missouri obtains a federal grant to help replace the Missouri River bridge on I-70 near Rocheport. MOFB sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation in support of this grant application. This will not solve our state’s infrastructure woes, but it will be a big step in the right direction.
Not every issue was resolved this session. When the Public Service Commission granted eminent domain powers to a private merchant electricity transmission line, hundreds of Missourians rallied at the capitol to stop this abuse of property rights. The House voted overwhelmingly to prohibit merchant transmission lines from using eminent domain. Unfortunately a handful of senators prevented the Senate from addressing the issue. This obstruction handed out-of-state energy companies the right to take our land for private money-making ventures. While we are disappointed, our fight on behalf of Missouri landowners will continue.
Every session leaves some items unaddressed, but on balance this was one of the most successful in recent memory for the citizens of rural Missouri. Having a governor who is a lifelong farmer clearly made a difference. Governor Parson has signaled his support for all of these bills and is expected to sign them into law. We are grateful for his leadership on these issues, as well as the many leaders in the House and Senate who worked tirelessly to complete them.
When rural Missouri thrives, our entire state thrives. We look forward to building on this year’s progress in the years to come.
Eric Bohl, of Columbia, Mo., is Director of Public Affairs for Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.