December 18, 2014

Nixon calls beef summit, wants more cattle processed in Missouri

Governor Jay Nixon says too many cattle are being raised in Missouri only to be processed elsewhere.

Photo courtesy; Larry Braun and the Missouri Department of Agriculture

Photo courtesy; Larry Braun and the Missouri Department of Agriculture

“We’re a state that has 1.7-million cows but we only finish 75-thousand of them. That means well over $1-billion of value that could be gained by Missourians is instead gained by folks in other areas,” Nixon said after speaking to FFA students in Centralia on Wednesday.

Nixon has called a summit for January 5 at the University of Missouri, where he wants stakeholders to come up with strategies for maximizing Missouri’s cattle industry and spurring economic development in rural areas.

He said he wants to see more cattle finished in Missouri, but he wants it done, “in a way that protects the water and air of our area, but I think a lot of gains have been made in this country in the last 20 years on how to do that. We then need to be able to harvest them here so that we can put the types of cuts out there that we can sell internationally for a premium, and then that last piece is we need to brand. Missouri farmers are the best in the world, and if we can use that sustainability and that genetics and that technology to continue to project our products worldwide, we’ll get a premium for that work.”

Nixon said part of his goal is to create opportunities for more young people to stay in Missouri, so that fewer of them will leave the state seeking jobs in the ag sector.

“We all know of the challenge of rural Missouri getting older and population moving. We think adding value to each of these farms, giving another option in the business model to add value and profit in rural Missouri and our state is something that can strengthen not only the economy of a given business or a given farm but also these rural economies,” said Nixon.

He said finding ways to strengthen the rural economy benefits urban residents as well.

For more information on the beef summit and to register, visit the Department of Agriculture’s website here.

Kyle Hill, KRES, contributed to this story


Gov. Nixon allows state of emergency in Missouri to end

An executive order that declared a state of emergency ahead of the announcement of a grand jury decision in the Michael Brown, Junior shooting investigation is being allowed to expire, Governor Jay Nixon has announced.

Nixon issued an order November 17 that activated the Missouri National Guard to support St. Louis City and County police and the Highway Patrol in responding to unrest in the St. Louis region. Nixon said today the Guard has concluded its duties in the region.

“I want to thank state and local law enforcement, the leaders of the unified command, and the members of the Missouri National Guard for working tirelessly to protect the public,” Gov. Nixon said. “As the hard work of healing and rebuilding continues, the fact that not a single life was lost as a result of the unrest is a credit to the hard work and dedication of these brave men and women.”

Dr. Margaret Vandeven named Missouri Education Commissioner

The state Board of Education has selected the state’s next Commissioner of Education.

Missouri Commissioner of Education-designee Dr. Margaret Vandeven (courtesy; Missouri Department of Education)

Missouri Commissioner of Education-designee Dr. Margaret Vandeven (courtesy; Missouri Department of Education)

It voted unanimously for Dr. Margaret Vandeven, who has been with the Department for nine years and has most recently served as the Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Learning Services. She will take over January 1, 2015 for Commissioner Chris Nicastro, whose retirement is effective at the end of this month.

In a statement, State Board president Peter Herschend wrote, “We believe in the positive impact of the Top 10 by 20 plan on Missouri’s children,” referring to the Department’s goal of getting Missouri students’ achievement in the top 10 of national rankings by 2020. “We strongly believe that Dr. Margie Vandeven is the right person to accomplish the goals of the plan.”

The Department says its Top 10 by 20 initiative will be a primary focus for Vandeven.

“I am honored to serve as Missouri’s Commissioner of Education, and I am committed to and focused on doing what’s right for the children of Missouri,” said Vandeven. “I stand ready to support our school districts and charter schools, working together to move Missouri into the top 10 in student performance.

Vandeven has been in education for 24 years. Prior to her work in the Department she spent 13 years as an English language arts teacher and administrator in private schools in Missouri and Maryland. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Education at Missouri State University, Master of Education at Loyola College in Maryland and Doctor of Philosophy at St. Louis University.

Governor Jay Nixon issued a statement congratulating Vandeven on being selected.

“I congratulate Dr. Vandeven on being named to this important post,” wrote Nixon. “Missouri’s Commissioner of Education plays a critical role in helping to ensure that all children in our state have the opportunity to go to a good public school where they will learn the skills and knowledge they need to find success in college or career. I look forward to working with Dr. Vandeven, educators and school leaders, and the Missouri General Assembly as we move forward toward our shared goal of continuing to improve the quality of education for students in every community.”

She will speak to the media in a conference call this afternoon. Watch for further news on her selection.


Execution set for Missouri killer of former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter

The Missouri Supreme Court has set an execution date for Marcellus Williams, who was sentenced to death in 2001 for the 1998 murder of former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Felicia Anne Gayle Picus during the robbery of her University City home.

Marcellus Williams (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Marcellus Williams (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Williams is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection January 28 at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center at Bonne Terre.

Williams became a suspect in the crime after he told a fellow inmate at the St. Louis City workhouse he had committed the murder. That inmate later told University City Police, who then interviewed Williams’ girlfriend and learned he had also told her he committed the murder. They were also able to recover a Post-Dispatch ruler and calculator belonging to Gayle from Williams’ grandfather’s car, and recovered a laptop computer Williams stole from the man he later sold it to.

Court documents say Williams broke in while Gayle was taking a shower.  He went to her kitchen and got a butcher knife, and when she got out of the shower he stabbed and cut her 43 times.

If his execution proceeds, Williams would be the 13th man put to death by the State of Missouri since November, 2013 and the first in 2015.

State Auditor gives ‘good’ review of Missouri Agriculture Department

The State Auditor has given high marks in his office’s review of the Department of Agriculture.

State Auditor Tom Schweich

State Auditor Tom Schweich

“It’s probably the best audit we’ve given of a state agency since I’ve been auditor,” Tom Schweich told Missourinet.

His office’s report rates the overall performance of the Department as “good.”

“There were some areas that need improvement, but in a department as large as that with a couple hundred employees and a lot of responsibility across the state, these were relatively minor findings,” said Schweich.

Among what the audit did find was that the Department provided “significant” salary increases to six employees in the past two fiscal years, ranging from 6 to 30 percent for those employees, and increasing annual staff salaries by $51,864. The Department said the increases were based on additional job responsibilities and said it will document future adjustments made based on job duties or classifications.

The audit also found that some program fees in the Department do not cover the costs of those programs, causing them to need more appropriations from General Revenue.

“They’re supposed to be self-sustaining programs and they’re not,” said Schweich.

The report recommends a periodic analysis of fees and expenditures for all fee-funded programs and consideration of adjustment of fees where possible, which the Department says it will undertake.

“We think that either the programs should be scaled back,” said Schweich. “I don’t really like to increase fees on farmers but that would be the other option.”

The audit also found that the Department’s Weights, Measures and Consumer Protection Division failed to inspect some grain moisture meters and scales and petroleum devices as required by law, that its Wine and Grape Board’s annual reports don’t provide information on expenditures made during the year, and that it has not filled positions on boards and commissions in a timely manner and has some members on those boards and commissions beyond their terms’ expiration dates.

Schweich says none of those were “serious findings.”

“I think it’s important to point out when government is working well, and I think the Department of Agriculture is a well-run organization. They were very receptive to our relatively minor criticisms. They intend to correct those programs, and this shows how an auditor and an auditee can work well together, can improve an already good organization, and provide value to the taxpayer,” said Schweich.

See the full audit report here.