(Audio is courtesy of Brownfield reporter Tom Steever)

Legislation to increase fees for several programs and licenses within the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) plant industries division is scheduled to be voted on by a House committee on Wednesday in Jefferson City.

State Rep. Don Rone (R) speaks on the Missouri House floor in March 2018 (file photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

MDA legislative liaison Emily LeRoy testifies the fees the department charges for some services are not enough to sustain its finances.

“We project the plant industries ag protection fund will be unable to cash-flow its needs by fiscal year 2020, unless additional revenue is generated to cover costs,” LeRoy says.

Missouri pesticide registration fees have remained the same since 2010, and MDA’s fees for grain elevator inspections have stayed the same since 1992.

MDA’s plant industries division registers pesticides and works to prevent the spread of plant diseases.

House Agriculture Policy Committee Chairman Don Rone, R-Portageville, is sponsoring the legislation to increase some MDA fees.

MDA Director Chris Chinn tells Brownfield the extra revenue is needed for the department to maintain its services.

“As technology continues to change, the department needs to be able to keep up with it,” says Chinn. “So having some more funding in the department that will allow us to buy new software that’s more user-friendly for the end user is very important to us.”

A bipartisan Missouri legislative committee was created last year to examine the agency’s funding levels. MDA testified in September that its plant industries division was “in dire need” of better computer software to track inspections, investigations and enforcement work.

Rone’s bill also requires MDA to convene a working group every five years to review all fees charged by the department, and to submit a report to the Legislature on any recommended changes to fees.

Rone’s bill also says that every pesticide distributed or sold in Missouri must be registered with MDA and pay an annual fee for product registered. Chinn would be allowed to deposit up to seven percent of the fee into a pesticide education fund, under Rone’s bill.

That funding would be used for pesticide education programs and pesticide waste disposal programs.

No one testified against the bill at last week’s hearing. Several commodity groups, including the Missouri Soybean Association, testified for the bill.