JEFFERSON CITY — Potential legislation that could benefit Missouri’s agriculture industry was discussed by members of the Joint Committee on Agriculture on Tuesday. The proposals include protecting agricultural property rights, limiting foreign land ownership and increasing biodiesel use.
Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill, said the hearing was held to prioritize efforts to build Missouri’s agriculture economy and reduce the state’s carbon footprint. Those proposals will be reported to the legislature.
“Our responsibility is to determine the economic impact of Missouri’s agricultural industry in the state to include its contribution to the state and local tax revenues,” Haffner said. Another priority he listed was “creation of incentives to encourage members of the agricultural industry to adopt best practices to scientifically address Missouri’s carbon footprint.”
The committee discussed the Missouri Made Fuels Act, which addresses biodiesel, a renewable, clean-burning fuel. The act creates a minimum biodiesel fuel content mandate for diesel fuel being sold in Missouri.
Casey Wasser, director of policy at Missouri Soybeans Association, testified in favor of the act, saying that Missouri’s biodiesel industry is above a 200 million gallon capacity annually, making Missouri’s production second in the country.
“The biodiesel industry contributes a lot economically,” Wasser said. “We see $1.3 billion in annual economic impact, 2,500 jobs, $1.7 billion in added value — that’s just since 2007, and $50 million in state tax revenue.”
Wasser also said Missouri is lacking in consumption, as only about a third of production is used in the state, with much of Missouri’s biodiesel going to states like Iowa and Illinois.
Wasser said he also has concerns about how much fuel is coming into the state.
“We’re encouraging the legislature to consider a bill that would give Missourians the right to blend locally produced fuel that adds benefits to Missouri’s economy and our environment.”
Haffner discussed the economic impact of the proposal, given the economic challenges of the pandemic.
“We’re making 200 million gallons of this fuel, and the added benefits of that, the second tier of production if you will, is being sent outside the state, when in these times, in a COVID time, we could be using that for state revenue right here in the state of Missouri,” Haffner said.
The committee also discussed the Eminent Domain and Grain Belt Express bill, which will limit the use of eminent domain for utility purposes. For the last couple of years, lawmakers have wrestled with whether to allow the Grain Belt Express project to use eminent domain.
“Eminent domain is meant to be used as a last effort, and in this case I think that we’ve gotten it out of whack,” Haffner said. “We need to protect Missouri farmers, and that’s specifically what this bill does.”
The committee also discussed the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA) Tax Credit and Sunset Extension, which provides farmers and agribusinesses with grants, loans and tax credits. The MASBDA Board has approved allocations of $6 million for the 2021 fiscal year to assist in the growth of Missouri’s agricultural industry.