MISSOURI – Mike Deering, the Executive Vice President of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, explains several issues the organization is working to achieve both at an organizational level and at a legislative level for the benefit of producers and the agricultural economy in an interview with KMZU’s Shaylee Miller.
According to the Missouri Cattle Association, several Missouri counties have enacted health ordinances, among other measures, that restrict or even prohibit certain types of farming and ranching. MCA believes that counties that promote and encourage farming should be recognized for their efforts to grow agriculture within their county. This inspired the beginning workings of the Agri-Ready County Designation Program. Missouri State Representative Joe Don McGaugh came up with the idea for this program and Missouri Farmers Care, an organization that encompasses 50 plus agriculture based organizations, is the organization that enacted the program. The purpose is to attract agriculture businesses and promote the growth of agriculture.
Another issue important to the MCA is a requirement coming into effect January of 2017 requiring farmers to have a prescription from a veterinarian for all antibiotics used on livestock. The problems associated with requiring a veterinarian prescription for these commonly used anti-biotics that can currently be purchased at many farm stores, is the added expense to farmers that may be charged a fee for receiving a prescription. Also, many veterinarians don’t offer weekend or evening hours, which the local stores typically do. This can cause an issue with attaining the needed antibiotics in a timely fashion.
Deering reports that only in agriculture is financial assistance for a disaster considered taxable income. He stated that roughly every 10 years there is a disaster in the cattle industry that incurs financial assistance from the federal and or state government. This financial assistance is taxed by both the federal and state government because it’s considered “income.” Deering believes this is just not the case and is not an appropriate tax. He used the example of a disaster to a home, saying, “If a tornado destroys your home and FEMA provides some assistance, the government doesn’t tax that financial assistance.” He says one of his and MCA’s goals is to stop this taxation, at least at the state level.
As many people know, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association lobbies within state government issues that affect the cattle market, beef producers and cattle ranching in general, but what may come as a surprise, they also monitor and support issues that affect other farming sectors as well. As Mike Deering says, if agriculture is to remain the number one industry in Missouri, all the agriculture related organizations need to stand together in a united front. Deering is referring to a specific case; the tax increase on farm land, that while it may not directly affect cattle land, MCA still believes its an issue they need to push back on. Deering reports that the tax commission raised value of farmland by 5% two years ago, but it just went into affect in January of 2015. He says they have proposed another tax increase, but the percentage currently remains unclear. After much feedback from the cattle industry, the tax commission agreed to only raise the value in lands grades 1 through 4, which is typically farm land, not cattle land. Deering says MCA is going to continue pushing back on this issue due to the recent flooding and low commodity prices. MCA believes this is an added expenditure that the agriculture industry just can’t sustain at this time.
Another issue that is important to all livestock producers, not just cattle, is the strict liability law. As the law currently stands, anytime livestock escape from their confinings and cause injury or damage to person or property, it is solely the livestock producers responsibility and liability. According to Deering, it doesn’t make a difference under the current law how the animal(s) escaped. MCA wants negligence to be proven before a producer becomes liable. Examples of negligence would be if the farmer failed to repair damaged fence or shut a gate, allowing the animals to escape and cause damage. If a law is passed requiring negligence to be proven, it could protect livestock farmers from possible lawsuits and fines from instances that could be potentially out of their control.
Deering ends with an issue he feels is the most important to the agriculture in general and that is to get young farmers to return to the family farms or to strike up a farm of their own. He reports that the average age of a Missouri farmer is 57 years old. Deering believes an incentive program would be a good tool to entice young farmers to return to agriculture.