By Garrett Hawkins
Rural Missouri’s economy runs on agriculture. This has been the case since before Missouri became a state, and it remains true today. Staying on the cutting edge of agricultural production and value-added processing requires investment in capital-intensive projects.
Recognizing the importance of agriculture to Missouri, Governor Mike Parson called for a special legislative session to extend critical agricultural tax credit programs and cut the state’s income tax. These tax credit programs work; they have been operating successfully for over two decades. They have helped local butchers and meat processors expand, increase the reach and impact of farmer-owned cooperatives and built the foundation for Missouri’s renewable fuel industry.
Agricultural tax credit programs have consistently created a measurable return on investment for Missouri taxpayers. For every dollar in tax credits issued, these programs have returned anywhere from two to seven dollars in economic benefit to our state, depending on the specific program.
Despite this stellar track record, some members of the legislature insisted that the programs be extended less than the standard six-year authorization for tax credits. After numerous negotiations, the legislature passed a two-year ag program extension in HB 1720, which Governor Parson vetoed in July. Governor Parson’s special session plan would extend existing programs a minimum of six years. It would also expand these successful programs to include incentives for ethanol and biodiesel, urban farming operations, and specialty crop production assistance.
While we are incredibly appreciative of the legislature’s work to pass a compromise package at the end of this year’s legislative session (HB 1720), the bottom line is these programs need to be fully reauthorized in order to be effective in growing the agriculture industry in Rural Missouri. Providing this certainty allows businesses to work with lenders and investors to develop building or expansion plans without fear that the government will pull the rug out from under them as soon as they get up and running. Governor Parson noted that the legislature passed eight bills with six-year sunsets on tax incentives for other industries, but unfortunately, agriculture was not given the same opportunity.
Farmers and ranchers have always been an entrepreneurial bunch. We take calculated risks and enjoy working to find the next big thing to help our rural communities. Rural Missouri should have access to proven tax incentives that help our small towns thrive so that we can pass our rural way of life on to our kids and grandkids. Missouri Farm Bureau supports Governor Parson’s request to pass this package of tax credit programs to keep our rural economy vibrant.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Garrett Hawkins is the President of Missouri Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization.