Interim Committee on Emerging Issues in Agriculture Tours Knox County
By Crystal Howerton
First District Representative Brian Munzlinger arranged for the Missouri House of Representatives Interim Committee on Emerging Issues in Agriculture to visit the Greenley Research Center and Cardwell Lumber Inc. near Novelty and Heartland Dairy near Bethel on December 1, 2008 as part of their tour of the state to access agricultural issues.
The tour of Northeast Missouri began at Circle A Angus Ranch in Huntsville, MO. Owned by the David Gust family whose headquarters are located in Iberia, Circle A Angus Ranch is the largest under roof cattle feed lot in the state, accommodating 5,000 head of cattle on about 7 ½ acres. The Gust family operates three approximately 7,000-acre ranches in Missouri and one ranch in Iowa.
Next, the Committee visited the University of Missouri Greenley Memorial Research Center near Novelty to learn about the research center’s operations and how it fits with required needs of producers. Committee members heard testimony about research being performed and brief comments regarding the importance of having a research center at Novelty from Greenley Superintendent Randall Smoot, Research Agronomist Kelly Nelson, Marc Linit, Assoc. Dean and Director for Research, UM and Greenley Advisory Board President Harold Beach.
Speakers included Scotland County Presiding Commissioner Mike Stevenson, Ralph Griesbaum, Marion County livestock and crop producer, and John Eggleston, President of NEMO Grain LLC, the ethanol plant at Macon.
Commissioner Stevenson discussed the issues surrounding Scotland County’s health ordinance and the reasons behind its repeal. Stevenson stated that people were never satisfied with the ordinance and always wanted to change it, which became very frustrating for the commissioners. Rep. Munzlinger said the Committee found it interesting that Scotland County producers were not the majority complaining about the ordinance even though its regulations were affecting them, but area residents who continued to demand more stringent regulations. He said that Knox County Presiding Commissioner Pete Mayfield was also invited to speak about our county health ordinance, however he was unable to attend.
Livestock and crop producer Ralph Griesbaum discussed his thoughts on regulations, which started out effecting larger operations and have started to trickle down to smaller operations and how these regulations negatively affect agriculture. He commented that many of these regulations are just to run industries out of counties and possible out of the country. “We have the safest, most economical food supply in the world right here in the United States,” he added. Rep. Munzlinger said Griesbaum brought up and interesting point, asking, “Why can’t agriculture move forward with technology like other industries?”
Providing testimony concerning fluctuations in profitability in the ethanol industry was NEMO Grain President John Eggleston. He pointed out that the 10% ethanol standard that Missouri has is working well. However it’s not a mandate because some stations are not currently using ethanol due to its price compared with gasoline and how the ethanol standard is actually a consumer protection law allowing the lowest priced product to be used. Eggleston mentioned that the grain, ethanol and livestock industries are all co-dependent on one another.
Upon leaving Greenley, the Committee next visited Cardwell Lumber, Inc., a value-added forestry business, which is also part of agriculture, said Rep. Munzlinger. “All of the Committee members were impressed with the operations and business at Cardwell.”
Then, the Committee headed southeast to Heartland Dairy near Bethel, which is owned by Sharpe Farms, Charlie Sharpe and is the largest dairy in the state of Missouri. Committee members learned about operations and dairy representatives explained how they processed their own product and provided jobs for the community.
Rep. Munzlinger added that the visit to Heartland Dairy was especially interesting for Committee members after having toured grass or pasture-based dairies in Southwest Missouri and to compare the differences in types of dairies.
The Committee began touring Northwest and Southwest Missouri and, most recently, Northeast Missouri following their first meeting in Jefferson City during midsummer in which Committee members planned their objectives. The Committee’s visit to Knox County was the last leg of the statewide tour prior to their final meeting to be held in Jefferson City just after the first of next year. The meeting will include testimony from commodity groups and farm organizations, at which time the Committee will review reports from all of the meetings in order to determine what types of legislation will benefit Missouri in the coming year, based on what the Committee heard and saw as testimony.