Member of the Missouri legislature once again converged on Jefferson City, Mo., to discuss and pass laws that may impact your agricultural operation. State commodity organizations are paying attention to key bills and issues that will affect farmers and ranchers.
Here are the top three topics to watch in the 2018 legislative session, according to Casey Wasser, Missouri Soybean Association director of policy, along with Samantha Davis, Missouri Corn Growers associate director.
1. Taxes. According to Davis, Missouri farmers already have one tally in the “win” column. In December, the Missouri State Tax Commission recommended not to increase tax assessments on land with grades 1-4. In addition, Wasser says the tax commission supported decreasing assessments on grades 5-8.
But there are still several large tax proposals filed in the Missouri General Assembly, Wasser says. “Farmers fought hard to ensure they would not be lost in the tax overhaul just recently signed into law by President Trump,” she says, “and at the Missouri Soybean Association, we’ve been reviewing Missouri’s proposals.” She adds that Missouri’s tax code is very complex, with hundreds of deductions, subtractions and exemptions — some of which benefit agricultural production and some that should be changed.
2. Transportation. Davis found that one bill creating controversy is Senate Bill 617, carried by state Sen. Bill Eigel, R-St. Peters, relating to tax reform. Eigel sat on a task force evaluating the state’s transportation needs and options for financially supporting the state’s complex transportation system. “While many support a gas tax increase to improve Missouri Department of Transportation funding, Sen. Eigel stated he cannot back a standalone fuel tax increase,” she says. “Instead, Sen. Eigel prefers an overall tax reform option that would ultimately be revenue-neutral while sending more funds to the Missouri Department of Transportation.” The Missouri Corn Growers Association policy team is currently reviewing the proposed bill to assess the impacts it could have on Missouri farmers.
Also on the transportation front is Senate Bill 734 by state Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, which is a direct 10-cent fuel tax increase. “This could potentially be an easier political lift than overhauling Missouri's entire tax system,” Davis says.
3. Regulatory reform. SB 823, also filed by Schatz, clarifies regulatory exemptions for “nonpoint sources” in the Missouri Clean Water Law. “It’s important for farmers to have consistency when it comes to enforcement of state and federal clean water laws,” Wasser says. “We’ve already seen some of what a broad, overreaching Waters of the United States [rule] could do, simply with the uncertainty it brought.”