A wide-ranging package to help Missouri agriculture is set to become law next month.

Missouri is hoping to build a firm foundation on promoting the state’s timber industry. The legislation includes a product promotion fund for Missouri’s hardwood forests, according to bill sponsor, Sen. Karla Eslinger, R-Wasola.

“It basically created a fund that could accept gifts, private donations, or appropriations to the Department of Economic Development so they can promote Missouri made hardwood forest products,” she said. “So, we were able to take care of that with a $2 million appropriation this year to help kickstart that fund and to promote the Missouri made hardwoods.”

Other aspects of the bill becoming law on Aug. 28 include increasing the maximum weight requirements for log trucks from 52 tons to 54 tons.

Missouri is rolling out the welcome mat for its future farmers. Under the legislation, farmers who sell their land to a beginning farmer under a crop-share agreement would see an income tax deduction. Crop-share agreements define how a landowner, and an operator will share the crop as compensation for land and labor contributions.

“You have to have filed no more than what they call a Schedule F form since you were 18-years-old, which means you just began,” said Eslinger. “That is really just your profit or your loss reporting on your taxes. (Also), that you’re going to be approved for a beginning farmer loan through the USDA or FSA and that you had a farming operation maybe that’s been termed by the MDA (Missouri Department of Agriculture) to be new production ag but as a principal operator of a farm, and you have substantial farming knowledge.”

Another provision ups the limit for tax credits used to sell and produce ethanol blend and biodiesel fuel.

“The intent, really, is to be able to give a credit for retailers that sell more biodiesel because we are an ag state, and the more soybean or corn that we grow that we can transfer into fuel, the better for economy in Missouri,” Eslinger said.

The tax credit increase from $4 million to $5.5 million would be for selling a higher ethanol blend of fuel and for producing biodiesel.

Increasing flood resiliency along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and their tributaries, in addition to improving statewide flood forecasting and monitoring was a priority of lawmakers in Jefferson City this year. The Flood Resiliency Program was a part of Senate Bill 138. It provides the opportunity to prevent future floods from causing such devastation.

“It protects those bottom fields that are such fertile crop lands along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and tributaries,” stated Eslinger.

Lastly, Missouri’s agriculture industry needs more large animal veterinarians. Lawmakers want more people to go into the field. The law will forgive up to $30,000 worth of student loans for as many as 12 Missouri large animal vets.

“What we’re seeing is that we just have such a gap of folks that are out there that are ready to serve those large animals that are critical to ag,” according to Eslinger. “You know, we have a lot of money invested in our cattle or horses, etc. and having access to affordable veterinary care is huge for the ag industry, but it’ll help fill that cap for large animal veterinarians that are critical to agriculture.”

The changes made by the Missouri Legislature this year expand the number of applicants to the Veterinary Student Loan Repayment Program from six to 12 and increase the amount that can be forgiven from $20,000 to $30,000 for each academic year.

Click here for more information on Senate Bill 138.

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