Only youth livestock events are planned for 2020 Missouri State Fair

StateFairShowYouth livestock shows will be the only activities happening at this year’s Missouri State Fair in Sedalia. There will be no parking or admission fees for spectators to attend, but social-distancing guidelines will be in place. The 4-H Building will also be open to the public, and camping is still permitted. For a complete show agenda, visit online at judging-schedules.In the wake of COVID-19 closures and concerns, more than half of the nation’s state fairs have been can­celed or modified for 2020, according to press reports and online postings. The Missouri State Fair is among those that have curtailed most traditional events. Only youth livestock shows and sales are now scheduled to happen as planned Aug. 13-23 in Sedalia.

The switch to this pared-down version of the fair was announced July 17, a drastic departure from plans released just a month earlier to continue most fair activ­ities with the exception of live concerts and a few other features. Concerns about public safety and the withdrawal of major sponsors and vendors were cited as reasons for the cancellation of all events not related to youth livestock exhi­bitions.

Keeping the livestock compe­titions intact maintains the fair’s mission to showcase agriculture, said Missouri Director of Agri­culture Chris Chinn.

“The most important thing the fair does is tell the story of agriculture,” Chinn said. “This is the most basic function of the Missouri State Fair, and it’s one that is the center of the fair this year. The young exhibitors who have quickly learned to be flexible and adaptable show me the promise in agriculture’s youth. I’ve watched as 4-H and FFA members across the state, uncertain if their county fairs or state fair will even go on, still go out and walk their livestock, clean them and teach them to do well in a show ring. It’s an act of endurance, and it’s one that is desperately needed right now.”

MFA will continue to support the state fair by providing in-kind donations that include feed, cattle panels for sale rings, water tanks, trophies and awards.

The Missouri State Fair, which started in 1901, has only been canceled one time. That was during World War II.

Most of Missouri’s neighbors have also canceled or modified state fair plans. The exception is the Kentucky State Fair, which is scheduled for Aug. 20-30 with COVID-19 contingencies in place. Like Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas changed their state fairs to events centered around live­stock competitions. The Arkansas State Fair, previously scheduled for October, has been canceled but may consider holding youth livestock shows. Cancellations have been announced in Iowa, Illinois and Tennessee, which opted not to hold state fairs for the first time since World War II. In Oklahoma, it’s the first time without a state fair since it began in 1907.

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Pollution precedent

In a ruling last month that could have implications for agriculture, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that indirect pollution reaching rivers, lakes, oceans and other navigable waters may fall under jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

The decision came in a closely watched case from Hawaii about whether a sewage treatment plant needs a federal permit when it sends wastewater deep underground instead of dis­charging the treated flow directly into the Pacific Ocean. Studies found the wastewater reaches the ocean and has damaged a coral reef near a Maui beach.

The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of “any pollutant to navigable waters from any point source” without a permit. Typically, sewage plants and other such industries must get a permit under the CWA when their pollutants go through a pipe directly into a body of water. The question in this case was whether a permit is needed when the pollutant first passes through the soil or groundwater.

Justices held by a 6-3 vote that industries cannot avoid com­pliance with the CWA by discharging polluted water into the ground rather than directly into waterways.

“We hold that the statute requires a permit when there is a di­rect discharge from a point source into navigable waters or when there is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the court.

The ruling vacated a Ninth Circuit decision that said a permit was required if such pollutants were “fairly traceable” to a point source. According to the lower court, the groundwater served as a conduit to transport the pollutants into navigable water, making it no different than discharging directly into the ocean. Agricultural leaders had expressed concern that, under this definition, farms could be subject to permitting requirements and enforcement if pollutants were “fairly traceable” to their operations.

Asserting that the Ninth Circuit’s interpretation was too broad, the Supreme Court concluded that time and distance would be crucial factors in determining which discharges into groundwater would be the “functional equivalent” of direct discharges. Ag­riculture industry leaders say the ruling may still expose farmers and ranchers to Clean Water Act violations as they relate to groundwater, with the potential to affect everything from field-tiling systems to manure stored in waste lagoons.

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Interns experience agriculture on the job

The 2020 group of MFA Ag Experience interns began their 12-week program May 18 with a slightly modified orientation to accommodate social-distancing guidelines at the home office in Columbia. Seated at desks about six feet apart, the students learned about company standards and became acquainted with MFA executives and fellow interns.

To be eligible for the pro­gram, applicants must be pur­suing a bachelor’s degree at an accredited college or university, be a full-time student in good standing with a grade point average above 2.75 and have completed their sophomore year of college.

The program, ending on Aug. 7, pairs each intern with a mentor from MFA Incorporated based on individual career objectives. Throughout the summer, the students learn about various sectors of agriculture by working with MFA and its members. As trusted employees, the students have access to the same technology resources, events and programs as other full-time employees in similar positions.

Students are challenged to stretch themselves beyond com­pletion of the job and use the opportunity to apply their class­room knowledge and previous work experience to real-world situations in the field. Upon conclusion of the program, the interns give presentations about their summer’s work to senior-level managers. Those who perform well throughout the program may be considered for future Ag Experience internship positions, part-time work during the school year or full-time employment after graduation.

MFA Ag Experience interns are, front row, from left: Larna Schnitker and Blake Elsberry. Middle row, from left: Graeson Bullington, Sara Gholson, Dallas Kleiboeker, Ryan Talkington, Mason Hunter and Paxton Dahmer. Back row, from left: Lillie Hegeman, Erik Eickhoff, Cash Hartley and Caleb Kindle.

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