The Missouri Senate, in a strong bipartisan vote of 31-2 passed the Missouri Dairy Revitalization Act of 2015 (HB 259). The bill now goes to Governor Jay Nixon for final approval.
HB 259, sponsored by Representative Bill Reiboldt (R-160), already cleared the Missouri House of Representatives by a vote of 110-49 on February 4.
“We urge Governor Nixon to sign the legislation without delay,” says Lloyd Gunter, Missouri Dairy Association (MDA) president and a dairy farmer from Conway.
“We appreciate and thank our elected leaders for approving HB 259 that will help curb the decline in Missouri dairies and provide opportunities for young people,” says Gunter.
Missouri would be the first state to pass landmark dairy legislation that enhances the dairy title provisions of the federal Farm Bill. HB259 requires the Missouri Department of Agriculture to establish a dairy producer insurance premium assistance program for producers who participate in the federal margin protection program for dairy producers. Participating producers shall be reimbursed for 70% of their federal premium payment. The program would be administered by the Missouri Agriculture and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA).
Furthermore, HB259 establishes the Missouri Dairy Scholars Program. This program makes available 80 scholarships at $5,000 each toward tuition at any college or university in Missouri for students in agriculture-related degree programs that make a commitment to work in the agriculture industry.
Additionally, under this act, the University of Missouri’s Commercial Agriculture program shall conduct an annual study of the dairy industry and develop a plan for how to grow the dairy industry in Missouri.
“Concern for job stability and economic activity in Missouri were the driving forces for support of these dairy provisions,” says Gunter.
“With the loss of dairy farms continuing in Missouri at an alarming rate due to drought and poor margins, the pressure of finding local milk for our 15 dairy processing plants has reached a critical stage.
“A University of Missouri study showed in 2011 that Missouri’s dairy product manufacturing industries directly employed 5,515 workers with a total state payroll of $258 million. Missouri’s dairy manufacturing plants produced an estimated $4.4 billion worth of dairy products.
“Missouri’s dairy product manufacturing industry revenues translated into statewide total economic output worth $7.7 billion. When you include the jobs, created at the farm level and with additional suppliers, a total of 23,297 jobs were supported providing $1.2 billion in labor income to Missourians in 2011.
“Missouri’s gross domestic product (GDP) was $2.0 billion larger due to the value added by
Missouri’s dairy product manufacturing industries,” says Gunter.
“Our industry means a lot to Missouri and to our consumers. But it all starts at the farm with the dairy farmer and his/her cows furnishing the local milk supply,” concludes Gunter.
Missouri’s agriculture groups were united in their support of HB259 with many testifying at various hearings including the Missouri Dairy Products Association, Dairy Farmers of America, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Corn Growers Association, Missouri Soybean Association, MO-AG, MFA Inc. along with students from the University of Missouri.