The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 14, 2014

Bill Reiboldt says farm background gives him insight into key ag issues

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — For 40 years, Bill Reiboldt has operated a farm north of Neosho, and until he recently sold 125 Holsteins, Reiboldt said his favorite part of farming was running a dairy operation.

“My farming operation was always in the dairy business,” Reiboldt said. “I loved it. Sometimes you get a little older and you need to make a change. We just sold the milk cows and kept the farm.”

Today, he raises beef cattle, along with some soybeans, alfalfa and wheat.

Another change for Reiboldt has been his ascension to state politics. Reiboldt, a Republican, was elected to the House in 2010, and has since risen to become chairman of the House Agriculture Policy Committee. He was re-elected to that spot in 2012.

“I have a lot of firsthand experiences with agriculture,” he said.

DAIRY CHALLENGES

Reiboldt said that of all the agriculture-related industries in the state, he believes the one facing the biggest challenge is the dairy business.

Missouri — with a lot of help from the Southwest corner of the state — used to be one of the top milk-producing regions in the nation.

In 1975, Missouri had 21,000 dairy farms with 302,000 dairy cows; in 2013, there were about 2,000 farms and 93,000 dairy cows, according to the Missouri Dairy Association. With the loss of farms has come the loss of other jobs, such as the closing last year of a milk processing plant in Monett, which led to the loss of 90 jobs.

Larry Purdom, of Purdy, president of the Missouri Dairy Association, testified last fall before a House Committee and said that since 2009-2010, the entire dairy industry has suffered from low milk prices, high feed costs and weather-related problems such as droughts that are costing the state 100 dairy farms a year.

Reiboldt has co-sponsored legislation that would create the Missouri Dairy Industry Revitalization Fund, which would direct 40 percent of the sales tax revenue generated by the sale of diary products back to help the industry. The bill would create and supplement the diary producer margin premium insurance assistance program.

Joe Horner, a University of Missouri Extension economist, said the insurance program would “piggyback” on the federal farm bill and extend subsidies to buy insurance.

“It will basically allow them (dairy farmers) to put a safety net under dairy if milk prices or feed prices get out of line,” he said. “Dairy is probably our most volatile price out there for producers.

“This is probably the best piece of proposed dairy legislation we’ve seen in the last 10 years in terms of its capacity to stop the decline of local milk production.”

The fund also would create a Missouri Dairy Scholars Program, to provide scholarships to future dairy farmers, and requires the University of Missouri’s Commercial Agricultural Program to conduct an annual study of the dairy industry.

“What we’re concerned about is if we lose the farmers, we lose the manufacturing base,” Reiboldt said. “This is something that we don’t want to happen because we have a lot of jobs. We import about 60 percent of our milk into the state. Missouri used to be an exporter of milk and diary products. This is one of our priorities.”

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  • Amendment 7 backers tout safety, new jobs; foes say special interests to benefit

    Billions of dollars are on the line when Missouri voters head to the polls on Tuesday to consider Amendment 7.
    The constitutional amendment, sent to the voters by the Legislature this year, would temporarily increase Missouri’s sales tax by three-quarters of 1 percent, raising an estimated $5.4 billion for the next decade to fund transportation projects. That includes more than $114.1 million in state funds for projects in Newton and Jasper counties, on top of additional revenue for localities that would be raised.
    After the Missouri Department of Transportation downsized in recent years, these projects are now mostly designed and built by private engineers, contractors and laborers — many of whom have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a campaign effort to sway voters to support the measure.
    Last Monday — eight days ahead of the primary election day — supporters of the measure reported having raised more than $4.1 million for a campaign committee called Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs, which was established last fall to support the measure.
    The International Union of Operating Engineers in St. Louis and Kansas City have contributed nearly $250,000 to the effort. That total was dwarfed by the $649,398 put in by the Industry Advancement Fund Heavy Constructors. Between its Missouri and Kansas companies, APAC — a construction contracting company that specializes in transportation projects — has contributed more than $150,000.
    “The whole idea that money is flowing into the campaign, of course it is,” said Sen. John Lamping, a St. Louis Republican who is opposed to the measure. “It would be a smart business decision to do that.”
    Lamping said the money pouring into the campaign supporting Amendment 7 is indicative of the financial gain the measure bodes for contractors and laborers.  
    Lamping proposed a measure in the Legislature that would redirect one-eighth of existing sales and use tax revenue directly to transportation projects, but he said that measure was rejected by legislative leaders. The coalition “didn’t hear about it,” the outgoing senator said, “because it was my idea instead of someone else’s idea.”
    Lamping, who filibustered a similar measure in 2013, said Republicans have an ideological consistency problem on the issue. He pointed to the Legislature passing a sales tax increase only a few weeks after overriding Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of an income tax cut that will largely help businesses organized as limited liability corporations, like many of the companies that could benefit from the measure. Lamping said that the tax increase will mostly affect taxpayers who did not get a significant tax cut.
    “Who wants a tax cut in Missouri?” he said. “Businesses. (Republican leaders) wanted to make them happy and then they passed a tax cut. This is grand-scale special interest cronyism.”
    The ad campaign being funded mostly by the business interests features paramedics and construction workers claiming the measure would “fix our roads and keep Missouri families safe.”
    “We have a chance to give our highways and bridges the repairs they need,” says one ad, which is running in Joplin and statewide in the lead up to Tuesday’s vote. “We have a chance to fix what’s broken by voting yes on Amendment 7.”
    The commercial uses a lot of words to talk about the benefits of the measure, but two words in particular are noticeably absent from the commercial: “Tax increase.”  
    “The ads don’t mention any of the ballot language,” said Jewell Patek, a spokesman for Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs. “We figure Missourians will see the language when they go to the polls.”
    Patek, a former state representative who now lobbies the Legislature, said he disagreed with Lamping’s notion that Amendment 7 is all about special interest gain.
    “There’s quite a bit to gain for Missourians,” he said. “We have serious road needs. We’ll win or lose by the benefits in Amendment 7. I’m not sure I agree with Senator Lamping’s assessment.”
    If approved, Amendment 7 would prevent an increase in the state’s fuel tax, a funding boost opponents of the amendment like Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and some of the state’s social welfare groups have said would be more appropriate because it could pull in revenue from people who use the roads — like the state’s trucking industry.
    The Missouri Truckers Association’s political action committee has contributed more than $27,000 to the effort to pass the measure. Tom Crawford, president of the association, said his members support the amendment because they see the problems on the road and deal with them every day. And passage of the measure does not mean anyone will stop paying fuel tax.
    “We overpay our fair share on the fuel tax,” he said, pointing to statistics by the American Transportation Research Institute that show truckers have accounted for about 14 percent of road usage while paying for 39 percent of all taxes and fees owed by motorists. “We pay sales taxes just like everybody does on goods and products that people buy in the stores.”
    Crawford said truck companies do not pay state sales taxes on the purchase of trucks, but they do pay a federal tax. “So, we won’t be impacted on new equipment purchase, but other areas of our business will be impacted just like every other taxpayer in the state will,” he said.
    Thomas Shrout, who is helping lead the campaign against the tax hike, said that is not good enough and that Amendment 7 lets truck drivers off the hook. “Under Amendment 7, they wouldn’t have to pay any more,” he said.
    Shrout’s opposition campaign has raised just over $27,000 — less than 1 percent of the total money raised by its supporters. They are targeting their opposition at the state’s urban core by spending money on direct mail and targeted robocalls in the final week.
    “We think using the sales tax to fund road projects is poor policy for the state of Missouri,” he said. “It should be rejected.”
    Shrout said the Missouri Department of Transportation and its supporters should go back to the drawing board and consider some of the other options like campaigning for toll roads or a gas tax increase — both based on road usage.
    Representatives for APAC and the Heavy Constructors Association declined requests for comment.

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