Changes in both state and federal legislation impact the way farmers and ranchers do their jobs. Everything from pesticides to taxes and even new farming methods can and do change the day-to-day work of the men and women working on farms and ranches across our area.
As the state’s No. 1 industry, with an $88.4 billion economic impact, it is vital that farmers, ranchers and other agriculture professionals stay up-to-date on the changes made by both state and federal lawmakers that affect the agriculture industry.
Over the last several years, the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have changed regulations dealing with certain pesticides in our state. In 2018, the state changed procedures for the use of Dicamba, a once popular pesticide, after widespread reports of spray-over causing damage to crops.
These restrictions were based upon feedback the department received from stakeholders and analysis of alleged crop injury complaints filed during the 2017 growing season and since.
According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri certified applicators will not have a state label to follow on Dicamba products in the 2019 growing season. In a press release, Missouri Agriculture Director Chris Chinn said, the new two-year federal label for the three dicamba products is 40 pages long, and he stressed the department has carefully reviewed the document.
“We see that there are similarities in the federal label and Missouri’s previous 24C label that we had in 2018. Because of that, we don’t see a need for an additional special local needs label like what we did in the 2018 growing season.”
Among other requirements, the EPA federal label bans over the top application of dicamba on soybeans 45 days after planting or until first bloom (the R1 growth stage), “We want to make sure that we are getting a decision out as quickly as we can to help farmers in their purchasing decisions. We know that that happens right now during this time of year and we want to make sure that farmers have some clear direction on what the path forward is going to be,” Chinn said in a press release posted to the
Department of Agriculture’s website, https://agriculture.mo.gov/.
The Missouri decision was made after the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to extend the registration of the three dicamba products for another two years with additional safeguards.
The EPA, according to a statement issued on Nov. 20, 2018, by the Missouri Department of Agriculture, has enhanced the previous labels and put in place additional safeguards in an effort to increase the success and safe use of the product in the field. The two-year registration is valid through Dec. 20, 2020, and includes the following:
Only certified applicators may apply Dicamba over-the-top (those working under the supervision of a certified applicator may no longer make applications);
For cotton, limit the number of over-the-top applications from four to two;
Prohibit over-the-top application of Dicamba on soybeans 45 days after planting or up until the R1 growth stage (first bloom), whichever comes first;
Prohibit over-the-top application of Dicamba on cotton 60 days after planting;
For soybeans, the number of over-the-top applications remains at two;
Applications will be allowed only from one hour after sunrise to two hours before sunset;
In counties where endangered species may exist, the downwind buffer will remain at 110 feet and there will be a new 57-foot buffer around the other side of the field (the 110-foot downwind buffer applies to all applications, not just in counties where endangered species may exist);
Enhanced tank clean-out instructions for the entire system;
Enhanced label to improve applicator awareness on the impact of low pH on the potential volatility of Dicamba; and
Label clean up and consistency to improve compliance and enforceability.
Training will be required every year for those applying dicamba, according to the University of Missouri Extension and will be offered by Bayer, BASF and Corteva.
The University of Missouri offers classes at various times, most occurring in winter. Valerie Tate, MU Field Specialist in Agronomy said, “Trainings also can be completed by watching the training video at county MU Extension offices. The dicamba training from MU Extension is only available online. ” Contact her office at 660-895-5123, for more information.
All hired pesticide applicators who receive compensation are required to obtain a certified commercial applicator license through the Department of Agriculture. For more information about certifications visit, https://agriculture.mo.gov/plants/pesticides/licensing.php.
To receive the certified applicator license you must complete certified private applicator training provided by the University of Missouri Extension. Training programs are offered throughout the year by contacting your local county extension office.
The 2018 Federal Farm Bill
The 2018 Farm Bill, also known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, was largely supported by Missouri farmers and was passed into law in December 2018 by the US Congress.
“Time and time again, farmers and ranchers are asked to produce more food with fewer resources,” Missouri Governor Mike Parson said in a press release distributed by his spokesperson, after the legislation passed. “The Farm Bill touches the life of every Missourian for the better by providing not only certainty for our producers, but also providing needed investments to advance agricultural research, international market development, working lands conservation, and rural broadband deployment.”
According to a statement by Rep. Vicky Hartzler’s office in June 2018, the 2018 Farm Bill:
Maintains crop insurance and reauthorizes and strengthens Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs.
Streamlines existing work requirements for able-bodied SNAP recipients, providing them with work training to increase SNAP recipients’ opportunities and help them move from government assistance to a good paying job.
Expands access to working land programs, increases acreage for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) ground to 29 million acres, and includes language Rep. Hartzler authored to allow grazing on CRP lands.
Authorizes substantial funding for the expansion of rural broadband.
Establishes new programs to protect the health of the nation’s livestock.
Improves assistance for specialty crops and reduces fraud in organic imports.
Helps beginning farmers and ranchers establish themselves in agriculture.
Missouri State Rep. Paul Curtman, a Republican from Pacific, introduced legislation in 2018 which now allows Missourians to grow, cultivate, harvest and process industrial hemp and creates a pilot program. This law requires Missourians who want to grow hemp to get a permit from the Department of Agriculture. The plant, which comes from the same plant as marijuana, contains very low levels of THC. Hemp can be used in about 25,000 products, including personal care products, fabrics and furniture. In addition, federal laws were passed in 2018 that will lift restrictions that prevented farmers from growing the crop for decades.
Missouri was once a leader in hemp production, growing nearly 38,000 tons for 20 years starting in the 1850s. But taxes on the plant caused farmers to, overtime, grow less of the crop until it was completely banned in 1971 with the passage of the Controlled Substance Act, which banned the growth of hemp completely.
Four years before the Missouri law passed in 2018, a federal law was passed that allowed states to establish pilot programs to determine the value of industrial hemp as an alternative cash crop. When President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill it officially removed the crop from the list of controlled substances. That means farmers can legally grow hemp for the first time in several decades.
The law passed by Missouri lawmakers during the 2018 legislative allowed the hemp pilot program for interested farmers during the 2019 growing season. However, individual farmers can only grow hemp on a maximum of 40 acres, and only 2,000 combined acres will be farmable statewide.
While policymakers are still working through the law and are working to determine best practices, a press release from the Missouri Department of Agriculture states that it is anticipated that the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program rules will become effective on June 30, 2019, and applications for growers and handlers will be posted online this fall.
Industrial Hemp education and outreach meetings will begin in August of this year and will review current laws, regulations and application processes.
Industrial Hemp Pilot Program grower and handler applications will be available online on Sept. 3. The grower and handler applications approved and applicants will be notified by or on Oct. 30. Registration fees due from handlers and approved growers are due Nov. 30.
Taxes on farmland
Property taxes on farmland have been a key issue in the last several years, and many farmers and lawmakers, alike, expect that to continue. The State Tax Commission can recommend increases or decreases to farmland property tax rates, and then the state legislature has the ability to block changes. A few years ago, the commission proposed an increase on some farmland tax rates, which the legislature blocked. Last year, the commission recommended a small decrease on some farmland property tax rates.
2019 Missouri Legislative session
With shifts in the industry the economy and biodiesel industry are key priorities for many this legislative session in Jefferson City. Everything from educating young Missourians about agriculture, in Sen. Denny Hoskins’ Senate Bill 218, to increasing access to broadband internet in rural areas.
Nearly two-thirds of Missouri’s rural areas do not have adequate access to broadband, which has been a problem for years and causes delays and sometimes hampers industry workers ability to effectively access the internet. In 2017, the issue was so prevalent that an initiative was started to spread awareness. Nationwide the problem has become so well recognized that language involving access to broadband was included in the 2018 Farm Bill. The Federal Communications Commission has donated billions of dollars in cooperation with the Connect America Fund to address the issue.
In February, Wisper ISP, a wireless company based out of Illinois, was awarded $220 million from the Connect America Fund, to be paid out over the next 10 years. Of that, $17 million is slated to come back to Missouri.
The project allows internet services through fiber or other means, even in areas where only one or two customers may need, or want services installed. Wisper, the company in charge of the Missouri project, said they promise to provide 100 megabytes per second for downloads and 20 megabytes per second for uploads. Once the company begins to receive the funding they will begin work. Company leaders say big changes are expected to come to Missouri rural broadband access in the next six years.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources, Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, said his committee has heard a number of bills so far this session that mean good things for the Ag industry in Missouri.
“The committee has heard and advanced legislation ranging from establishing a pilot program for agricultural education programs in elementary schools (Hoskins bill) to allowing the Director of Agriculture to assess penalties for violating certain provisions of law relating to eggs,” Bernskoetter said. “The items before this committee are vast but any chance we have to ensure that food production is safer and to promote the agricultural-literacy of young Missourians, then that is good work I can get behind.”
For more information about agriculture legislation before the Missouri Senate, visit: https://www.senate.mo.gov/19info/bts_web/CommitteeBills.aspx?SessionType=R&CommitteeID=193.
To see the agriculture bills before the House Agriculture Policy Board visit, https://www.house.mo.gov/Committees.aspx?cluster=true.