Missouri Farmers Union Update
Dear Missouri Farmers Union members and friends of family farmers
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This is the first MFU update you’ve gotten for awhile. We had a busy spring here on the Missouri River bottom after last years record flooding. Its been dry since May, but Northwest Missouri crops on the bottom and in the hills look good after recent days of rain.
In case you missed it, Missouri Department of Agriculture is holding a farm photo and video contest at this years state fair in Sedalia. Entry deadlines have been extended until July 6th. Not only is there time to enter, but now you even have time to create the prize winning entry. It doesn’t take a fancy camera to get really good pictures and videos, because a lot of modern cell phones do both very well. Try it!
The new farm bill is taking shape in the US Senate. Where it’s headed is anyone’s guess. Some people say it looks like pork. (I wrote about it here) But it’s really stew with only one vegetable–a crop insurance carrot for grain, oilseed, and cotton farmers. What we need is a safety net against crop production and/or market disaster. The system we have now works fine unless prices crash for two or three years in a row. If that happens price guarantees are way too low. That’s why National Farmers Union has been working with Dr Daryll Ray and Dr Harwood Shaffer at University of Tennessee to devise a farmer owned, farmer controlled strategic grain reserve, cheaper to operate than deficiency payments, that helps level out market highs and lows.
There’s a new “shallow loss” proposal in the farm bill that would essentially pay the deductible portion of crop insurance anytime crop yields drop below guarantee. Now, in addition to farm subsidies a lot of food benefits for schools and low income families are being challenged. Regardless of where you stand on food stamps, hear this; any farm bill written without public support, or any farm bill not written in an election year will not be good for agriculture. Call your representatives in Congress and tell them we need a farm bill now. While you’re at it ask Senators McCaskill and Blunt to support Senator Chuck Grassley and his GIPSA livestock market reforms.
Speaking of GIPSA, Dudley Butler has been replaced as Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Act administrator by fifth generation farmer Larry Mitchell, former CEO of American Corn Growers. Larry has been a powerful advocate for family farmers in the past. We’ll see how he does against Big Ag and moneyed interests in Congress.
Senator Claire McCaskill has co-sponsored an amendment to the farm bill eliminating over-regulation by EPA of pesticides already approved for use on Missouri farms. EPA pops into the news a lot lately, including Jefferson City last week where the Missouri Clean Water Commission took testimony from environmentalists, farmers, and others regarding the Jameson Island river chute project where the Army Corps of Engineers wants to dump soil into the Missouri River. Both EPA and the Corps don’t see a problem, but let a river challenged flooded out farmer try to dump sterile sand into the river and EPA is all over it. I hope the Commission remembers their title begins with the word CLEAN.
Is Missouri dumbing down? Critics of term limits in the General Assembly think so, because about the time a legislator gets it right he leaves and another green hand comes to town. That leaves lobbyists and long time staffers in charge, because they’re the only ones with long term memories. This year wasn’t entirely bad for our side though, because with one party overwhelmingly in charge at the Senate and House, it seems like they’re starting to think about who really gets the credit for bad laws. One result this year was that a couple of attempts to give away even more personal property rights to multinational vertically integrated livestock corporations was headed off at the pass. That’s a far cry from last year when the General Assembly voted to limit Big Pigs liability to the value of YOUR property. Maybe the lobbyists really were in charge….
Governor Jay Nixon is on the line about health care now that the General Assembly has passed legislation prohibiting coverage of birth control (including abortion) in health care insurance. In the meantime– there are state laws on the books– health insurance companies have been doing pretty well. The Missouri health insurance company Anthem has been ordered to refund a portion of premiums to Missouri customers after it became know that in 2010, only 62% of the premiumsthey collected went toward taking care of customers. That leaves 38 cents of every dollar we pay them going for….what?? In 2011 they did a little better. What that boils down to is that if a customer of Anthem had open heart surgery in 2010, and the total bill came to $62000 after deductibles, Anthem collected $100000 from all its customers to pay for it. Seems like the government isn’t the only place where they have wasteful spending. It is the Affordable Care Act that makes health insurance companies accountable.
I received an email the other day asking if Farmers Union still lived in Missouri. You bet we do, but there are only so many hours in the day and after last year on my farm, I needed all the hours I cold get for me and mine. I want to thank the Missouri Rural Crisis Center for continuing to keep us all advised about the activities of the General Assembly this year.
Thanks for supporting Missouri Farmer Union with your paid membership.