In spite of a pending snowstorm, over 250 Farm Bureau members arrived in Jefferson City for their annual state Commodity Conference and Legislative Briefing. The weather didn't hamper the meeting, however, as members learned of a proposed tax increase for transportation needs, beneficial changes in farm truck regulations, possible impacts of federal spending sequestration and the crop season weather forecast.
Those attending the Feb. 25-26 conference from Moniteau County Farm Bureau Board were: Dennis Feezor, Lisa Porter and Andy Clay. They met with their elected officials at the State Capitol and at a legislative banquet.
They heard from speakers like Mike Steenhoek of the Soy Transportation Coalition, who said as the U.S. struggles to maintain and improve its transportation infrastructure, international competitors are gaining ground upgrading ports, river and rail transportation at a faster, more efficient pace. Steenhoek suggested writing bigger checks is not the answer to projects such as new locks and dams. "We need to look at alternative funding mechanisms that provide money up front and with greater certainty. We should explore the potential for foreign investment," he said, adding we should be better stewards of maintaining our present transportation system.
Missouri Highway Commissioner Rudy Farber opened a panel discussion on a proposed 1 cent general sales tax specifically for transportation needs. Also on the panel were State Senator Mike Kehoe and Missouri Department of Transportation Director Kevin Keith. Farber said the tax would raise $7.9 billion over a 10-year period. Renewal of the tax would require voter approval. Keith said 100 percent of the funds would remain in Missouri, with 5 percent earmarked for county use and 5 percent for city use. Farber mentioned the state was in danger of losing federal highway cost share dollars because the state is having difficulty maintaining its matching share.
Bob Young, American Farm Bureau's chief economist, spoke about how sequestration will affect spending and the federal budget. He likened the cuts to a family trying to pay down a $37,000 debt with only $850. Bryce Anderson, meteorologist with DTN, said temperatures should moderate this growing season, compared to last year, but expect precipitation to remain below normal. And, Cory Winstead of Agrivisor gave an outlook on commodity markets.