Senate committee hears testimony on agriculture bill
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Senate committee hears testimony on agriculture bill

Date: January 21, 2015
By: Matt Kalish
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A Missouri Senate committee heard testimony Wednesday on one of two bills designed to help the state's dairy industry.

The Missouri Dairy Revitalization Act of 2015 contains several provisions to help support the state's dairy and livestock industries, which have been struggling over the past decade. If passed, the legislation will reimburse dairy farmers for over 70 percent of their crop insurance and fund a study at the University of Missouri to see how the state can grow the dairy industry in Missouri.

This legislation is similar to a bill vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon last year, however this year's dairy bill lacks a controversial provision classifying deer as a livestock and has the support of Nixon's agriculture department.

Senator Brian Munzlinger, R-Willamstown, sponsored the bill and said while he would have liked to include the deer language, he is happy with the current legislation.

"I feel good about it," Munzlinger said. "It would help provide more locally grown food, especially if you look at the dairy industry."

Missouri has had a dairy deficit, which means the state imports more milk than it produces, the past few years.

The legislation would also exempt dairy and livestock farmers from weight limits on Missouri highways, a provision which drew opposition from MoDOT officials.

MoDOT chief engineer Ed Hassinger said removing the restriction could increase the strain on the state's bridges, leading to an increase in bridge closures.

However, Munzlinger said he's not considering removing the language from the bill before it reaches the full Senate.

Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, the chair of the House Select Committee on Agriculture, said he expects the bill to move through the House and Senate quickly.

"I'm sure the Governor feels good with it and will sign it," Reiboldt said. "We're gonna try to get it on the fast track."

The House Committee on Agriculture Policy will hold a hearing then vote on Reiboldt's bill, which is identical to Munzlinger's legislation, Thursday morning.

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