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Opinion: Unfinished businesses

  

Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” hits just right as the Missouri General Assembly enters the second half of its 2022 legislative session and Missouri Farm Bureau’s priorities hang in the balance. 

Woah, we’re halfway there

Woah, livin’ on a prayer

Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear

Woah, livin’ on a prayer

In January, we said the legislature’s focus needed to be completing last year’s unfinished business. As we enter the last two months of session, this request has not changed.

Missouri Farm Bureau President Garrett Hawkins
Missouri Farm Bureau President Garrett Hawkins

The House has been making progress on many of our member-adopted policy priorities while the Senate has been bogged down with redistricting. That logjam appears to be breaking loose as the Senate has acted on several pieces of legislation this week. Let’s hope this momentum continues.

For farmers and ranchers, property rights are fundamental to who we are and what we do. Without land, we can’t grow food. While the government has the power to take away land by eminent domain, it should be an extremely rare, last-resort option for legitimate public needs. Projects developed for private gain, like the Grain Belt Express merchant electricity transmission line in northern Missouri, do not meet that important standard.

This needs to be the year Missouri clarifies the law that allowed this unjustified taking and stops allowing eminent domain for private gain. We believe merchant transmission lines should drop off a minimum of 50 percent of their power to Missouri, in order to even be eligible to be considered for eminent domain. Grain Belt Express will only drop off 6 percent to Missouri. Essentially, Missouri’s rural families are having their land taken from them in order to transmit green energy to the East Coast. Missouri should not be the transmission superhighway for the Green New Deal.

At the end of 2021, several value-added agricultural incentive programs expired. These programs have a proven track record of bringing economic growth and creating jobs in rural Missouri. Helping small businesses get off the ground or expand has made a huge difference to meat processors, ethanol plants, peanut processing, and more. These programs are supported by a bipartisan coalition and need to be renewed to aid our rural communities.

Speaking of rural communities, Missouri has lagged behind other states in broadband internet availability for far too long. Small investments over time have moved the issue forward and helped more rural residents get affordable, quality service. We need to provide the resources necessary to bring service to all. Governor Parson announced his plan to allocate $400 million of federal COVID relief funds to broadband infrastructure development. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, and the legislature should give the Governor’s plan final approval.

The past decade has seen an explosion of out-of-state money coming to Missouri seeking to change our state constitution to match their agendas. We’ve changed Missouri’s constitution more times in the past 10 years than we’ve changed the U.S. Constitution in 233 years. Our state’s constitution is now the fifth-longest of any state, coming in at a whopping 69,394 words. Our constitution should be a guiding document for the people, not a wish list for the wealthy. We must act quickly to raise the bar to protect our constitution and make it much more difficult for a slick, well-funded ad campaign to amend it.

All of these items can and should get done before the legislature adjourns on May 13. While we have continued to discuss these issues, new concerns constantly arise that also need to be addressed. We need to complete this unfinished business so we can tackle a new set of challenges in 2023.