The Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) provided a legislative committee examining the agency’s funding levels with an immediate and long-term needs assessment on Tuesday at the Statehouse in Jefferson City.
MDA Director Chris Chinn testified Tuesday before the bipartisan Joint Committee on Review of the Plant Industries Division.
“We identified or we calculated a target of $1.46 million in additional revenue to meet the immediate ongoing needs and almost $900,000 to meet long-term needs going forward,” Chinn testified.
The committee had requested possible funding solutions from MDA at a previous hearing.
MDA officials presented a hypothetical fee increase of 40, 50 and 60% for lawmakers to discuss.
Missouri pesticide registration fees have remained the same since 2010, and feed licenses haven’t been adjusted since 1998. Lawmakers also learned Tuesday that MDA’s fees for grain elevator inspections have stayed the same since 1992. Fees for greenhouses have also remained steady since 1992.
The Plant Industries Division registers pesticides, licenses pesticide applicators and works to prevent the spread of plant diseases. It has been funded with fees since 2010.
While he opposes across-the-board fee increases, Joint Committee on Review of the Plant Industries Division co-chair State Rep. Don Rone, R-Portageville, says the Show-Me State ranks near the bottom on all fees.
“And if you look, Alabama on fees, they’re twice as much as we are on registration fees of chemicals,” said Rone. “Louisiana is at $400 and we’re at $150.”
Rone said fees are not adequate enough to fund the Plant Industries Division.
Plant Industries Division Director Paul Bailey also testified Tuesday, saying they’re a pragmatic division working to do the most with least.
Bailey testifies the division is not requesting new FTE (full-time employee) positions, adding that the agency needs revenue to fill two full-time positions appropriated in 2018 that he says MDA never received the funding for.
Mr. Bailey also said the Plant Industries Division needs better computer software.
“The pesticide program is in dire need of an enforcement software program to be utilized for enforcement tracking of all inspections, investigations and enforcement work,” Bailey said. “That upgrade, we’re requesting $200,000.”
Bailey also said the division has nine vehicles, and most of them have more than 150,000 miles. He noted they have repair costs.
He said the division is seeking two vehicle replacements, at a cost of about $50,000.
Chinn told reporters during the August State Fair in Sedalia that there’s a shortage of MDA inspectors for dicamba damage complaints.
Joint Committee co-chair State Sen. Sandy Crawford, R-Buffalo, told the audience that a subcommittee will be formed and will meet with MDA.
Senator Crawford expects the Joint Committee to submit recommendations to the full Legislature by the end of December.
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