We are less than two weeks away from legislators throwing stacks of paper in the air to celebrate the end of the 2023 session of the Missouri General Assembly, and like every year, there are still a lot of bills in the air. Missouri Farm Bureau is focused on a few key issues as we approach the finish line.
Affordable and effective health coverage is one of the biggest challenges facing Missourians. Two companion bills will help Missourians, including sole proprietors like farmers, ranchers and small business owners access affordable and effective health coverage. In many farm families, a spouse works off the farm just to access affordable health coverage for their family. The current options, including Affordable Care Act plans (ACA), are prohibitively expensive for many families. Rural Missourians are especially affected by the lack of plan options on the ACA marketplace, with the current ACA marketplace offering only two health carrier options for 52 rural counties and five counties having only one health carrier to purchase from. Missouri Farm Bureau can help fill that coverage gap just as six other state Farm Bureaus have been able to do. We ask that legislators pass House Bill (HB) 464 and Senate Bill (SB) 11 to provide Missourians with another option for affordable, comprehensive health coverage.
Beginning farmer legislation would allow for better access to farmland so the next generation of farmers and ranchers can carry on the farming tradition. SB’s 588, 618 and HB 1023 would allow for an income tax deduction for landowners who sell, lease or participate in a crop-share arrangement with a beginning farmer. It is not uncommon for landowners to hold onto land to avoid paying crippling capital gains taxes. This legislation helps address that economic burden. The House unanimously passed HB 1023, but the Senate has yet to debate the measure on the floor.
Potholes and poor roads are the bane of drivers, regardless of the vehicle. We support state and federal investment in our roads and bridges, including legislative efforts to expand I-70 to six lanes and invest in rural roads. Now is the time to make meaningful investments to support all pieces of our state’s infrastructure because they are all necessary for the vitality of rural Missouri. It is encouraging that legislators are focused on these wise investments, which we want to see included in the final legislative budget, as it must be passed by May 5th.
MOFB is always a staunch protector of private property rights. HB 1044 and SB 591 propose reforming the Public Service Commission (PSC) to include farmers and rural representation. This would ensure farmers and ranchers have a seat at the table in deciding how utilities proceed with future projects across the state. We are also pushing HB 1052 and SB 577 to close a statutory loophole that allows the misuse of eminent domain authority for solar and wind projects. Additionally, we are working to co-locate transmission lines, limit eminent domain for out-of-state-for-profit companies, and require the PSC to develop Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreements to return land to full agricultural production capacity post-construction. Farm Bureau also supports HB 903, which reduces the one percent cap currently in place on foreign ownership of agricultural land, an issue with national security implications. The House and Senate have passed different versions of foreign ownership legislation, and conversations are expected to continue.
Missourians have the right to add and change our laws through the initiative petition process. While more than 100 amendments have been added to the Missouri Constitution since 1945, many have been pushed through with the help of out-of-state funding and without rural voter support. MOFB wants to change that through reform of the initiative petition process. The House and Senate have both passed different versions of HJR 43, which increases the threshold to amend the constitution. We urge both chambers to work together to escort this long-standing legislative priority across the finish line this year.
Passing legislation on these priority issues will make a meaningful impact to on the quality of life for Missourians. Please contact your senator and representatives today. Your voice matters!