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Agriculture budget cuts run deep

Written by TF Staff on .

Under the Trump administration’s proposed budget released in mid-March, USDA would face a steep, 21-percent cut in “discretionary” spending.

Among programs and personnel potentially on the chopping block are rural clean water initiatives, county-level USDA staff, conservation programs, food safety, the National Forest System and research grants, according to the White House budget document.

The $4.7 billion in cuts would leave USDA with a budget of $17.9 billion. The proposed reductions do not cover “mandatory” spending established by law, like farm subsidies and food stamps, only “discretionary” programs where lawmakers can adjust spending.

The budget proposal provided little information about how the cuts will be carried out, but more details are expected to unfold when a traditional full budget is released in mid-May.

Stewardship could land you $10,000

Written by TF Staff on .

Missouri farmers, ranchers and other private landowners who voluntarily demonstrate outstanding stewardship and management of natural resources will have an opportunity to win a $10,000 award for their efforts.

Applications are now being accepted for the Leopold Conservation Award Program, recognizing those who have made extraordinary achievements in voluntary conservation. Nominees will be evaluated on such criteria as conservation ethic, innovation, adaptability, resilience, leadership and communications.

Administered by the Sand County Foundation, a non-profit conservation organization, the awards have recently come to Missouri for the first time through a partnership with Missouri Farmers Care and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council.

“This action fits Missouri Farmers Care’s role in educating and advocating for agriculture’s hardworking farm and ranch families and their history of responsible stewardship of the land and resources from which they derive their living,” said Alan Wessler, chairman of the MFC board and vice president of feed for MFA. “Those same families strive to ensure that the land and its wildlife environment are well taken care of to pass along to future generations.”

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”

Missouri’s inaugural Leopold award will be presented at the 2017 Governor’s Conference on Agriculture in December.

Applications for the award must be postmarked by July 1, 2017. Visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org for more information and details on the application process.

EPA chief visits Missouri power plant

Written by Steve Fairchild on .

The Environmental Protection Agency can do its job without killing jobs. That was the message from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt at the Thomas Hill Energy Center near Clifton Hill, Mo., today. The coal-fired electricity plant is owned by Associated Electric Cooperative Incorporated, which generates power for Missouri's rural electric cooperatives. The Thomas Hill facility has some 239 employees and an annual budget of $200 million, a significant contributor to the economy of Randolph County in rural north central Missouri.

"The war on coal is over," Pruitt said. "The war on fossil fuels is over." Pruitt added that the United States has grown proficient in providing clean energy, something that should be celebrated. Pruitt outlined the measures the Trump administration has taken to roll back controversial rules from the EPA including Waters of the United States regulations that would have drastically increased regulatory oversight of land use across the nation. "Land is your most important asset," Pruitt told the crowd. "I know that. You know that. Washington D.C. doesn't know that."

The visit to Thomas Hill Energy Center was part of Pruitt's "Back-to-Basics" tour, which has included a trip to a Pennsylvania coal mine and a stop at the USS Lead Superfund site in East Chicago, Indiana.

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When safety is a state of mind

Written by TF Staff on .

When MFA Incorporated started the Safety Pays program in 2004, the goal was to reduce workplace accidents. The company also wanted to remind adults that they have very important reasons to make safety a motivator—children and other family members. That was the genesis of the Safety Pays poster contest. What better way to remind ourselves about safety than through the work of the next generation?

Since that launch, MFA has continued to focus on safety, including the implementation of a program called SHIELD, an acronym for “safe habits improve employees’ lives daily.” That program depends on employees throughout the company being trained to talk about safety with their fellow workers. From truck drivers to office personnel to workers at feed mills and fertilizer plants, MFA employees are having conversations about safe work practices. So, again this year, we asked children and grandchildren of MFA employees and affiliates to give us their ideas about safety.

Each year, the contest judges face a tough decision in choosing winners from the clever ideas and nice artwork submitted. After much deliberation, judges selected these as the top entries:

Best of Show: Erin Fick, Freeburg, MO

Erin is 12 years old and a sixth-grader at Sacred Heart School. She is the daughter of Kenny and Christy Fick. Kenny is a feed mill operator at the MFA Coop Assn #280 in Freeburg.

Grades K-1: Saylore Landewee, Chaffee, MO

Five-year-old Saylor is a kindergartner at St. Ambrose Catholic School. She is the daughter of Darren and Cassy Landewee. Cassy is a precision ag specialist at MFA Agri Services in Chaffee, Mo.

Grades 2-3: Callie Pyle, Willard, MO

At 8 years old, Callie is in second grade at Willard North Elementary. She is the daughter of Casey and Christy Pyle of Willard, Mo., and granddaughter of Calvin Pyle, a salesman for Golden City MFA.

Grades 4-6: Madelynn Caldwell, Vandalia, MO

Madelynn is 11 years old and attends sixth grade at Van-Far Elementary. She is the daughter of Chris Caldwell, an elevator operator at MFA Agri Services in Vandalia, Mo.

Railroads and waterways integral to ag

Written by Nancy Jorgensen on .

When it comes to railroads and waterways, Missouri is fortunate. The state has the nation’s second- and third-largest rail hubs and 14 public ports on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, according to MoDOT spokesman Bob Brendel.

Moving grain costs less by rail and barge, frees up highways and reduces wear and tear on roads and bridges. According to the Iowa Department of Transportation:

  • One large semi truck carries 910 bushels.
  • One jumbo hopper rail car carries 4,000 bushels.
  • One barge carries 52,500 bushels.

A few years ago, agriculture had problems finding rail cars to move grain because of higher demand from the oil industry, but railroads invested in their networks. Today, agriculture faces less competition for rail shipping services.

“Even with historic harvests the last couple of years, we’ve been able to move ag products by rail,” said Mike Steenhoek of the Soy Transportation Coalition.

But Steenhoek remains concerned about barge traffic on inland waterways—especially at deteriorating locks and dams leading to and along the Mississippi River. Thanks to lobbying by agricultural and barging organizations, Congress has approved limited federal appropriations for locks and dams. However, Steenhoek pointed out, “Improvements to the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers are over budget and won’t be done for another five or six years. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s slow coming.”

For years, MFA Incorporated has used ports along the Mississippi to barge in fertilizer and other products. For the past three summers, MFA has also moved grain by barge from Missouri River ports.

“In 2016, MFA loaded 35 barges of grain on the Missouri River, eventually ending up in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Bill Dunn, director of transportation for MFA Incorporated.

Shane Kinne, director of public policy for the Missouri Corn Growers Association, also says his group would like to see increased investment in river locks and dams, and he’s bullish on Missouri River barging.

“We’re fortunate to have the Missouri River, yet battles about management priorities hamper its use to move products,” he said. “We continue to urge the Corps of Engineers to give a higher priority to navigation and flood control.”

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