A legislative committee examining funding levels at the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) will hold a hearing Tuesday at the Statehouse in Jefferson City.

State Rep. Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, speaks on the Missouri House floor on February 21, 2018 (file photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

The Joint Committee on Review of the Plant Industries Division meets Tuesday at 1 p.m.

State Rep. Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, who serves on the committee, tells Missourinet the department needs additional funding.

“Agriculture is so productive, so good and most of us don’t think about it on a day-to-day basis, so when you go into those meetings, people think that food just happens,” Black says.

Black, whose rural district includes Grundy, Linn and Livingston counties, notes the Plant Industries Division operates Missouri’s pesticide control and produce safety programs.

“If we’re going to watch regulations and continue to be the safest source of food in the world as well as cheapest source of food in the world, we’re going to need some help in those areas,” says Black. “And I’m confident that some of those fees are going to go up.”

Missouri lawmakers decided in 2010 to fund MDA’s Plant Industries Division with fees, and committee co-chair State Rep. Don Rone, R-Portageville, says fees are not enough to fund that division.

MDA Director Chris Chinn told reporters during the August State Fair that there’s a shortage of MDA inspectors for dicamba damage complaints.

During an August 16th press conference at the Missouri Fairgrounds, Chinn said the department had vacancies for three investigators and two support staff members.

Director Chinn is expected to testify on Tuesday, before the committee.

Governor Mike Parson (R) also addressed the issue with reporters at the State Fair. Parson says he’s willing to look at increasing MDA’s budget under careful consideration and a cost-benefit analysis for all departments.

As for Representative Black, he tells Missourinet he hopes lawmakers make a good decision, so they don’t have to review the issue again in two or three years.

“I, individually, would like for us to set up a plan that we think will make it ten years before somebody (in the Legislature) has to look at it again,” Black says.

Missouri’s state operating budget is more than $28 billion.

Despite agriculture being Missouri’s top industry, MDA’s budget is about $39.5 million, and the Plant Industries Division budget is about $4 million.

The Joint Committee on Review of the Plant Industries Division has 12 members, seven Republicans and five Democrats.

State Sen. Sandy Crawford, R-Buffalo, is the other co-chair.

Click here to listen to the full interview between Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and State Rep. Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, which was recorded on August 16, 2018 at the State Fair in Sedalia:

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