Agriculture Park dedicated in Columbia

FarmersMarket1Saturday shoppers flock into the new home of the Columbia Farmers Market at city's recently built agriculture park. As longtime members of the Columbia, Mo., community, leaders from MFA Incorporated and MFA Oil Company were on hand Saturday, July 13, at the dedication of the city’s new Agriculture Park. The MFA Foundation supported the project.

The dedication marked the completion of the project’s first phase, which includes the University of Missouri Health Care Pavilion, a parking lot, playground, walking trail and supporting infrastructure. A second phase of construction, which would add an event center, a kitchen and more stalls for vendors at the pavilion, will go forward as funding allows.

Speaking on behalf of the foundation, MFA Incorporated Presi­dent and CEO Ernie Verslues said that throughout its history, MFA’s mission has been to provide farming and ranching solutions that contribute to the success of its member-owners as well as their communities. Part of that mission includes member and community education.

“We’ve also been active in educating consumers on modern farm­ing practices and the safety of our food supply,” said Verslues. “This is a growing challenge as each generation is further removed from the farm. We are proud to lend a helping hand in growing our communi­ty and wish the park great success in its mission.”

FarmersMarketMFA Incorporated CEO Ernie Verslues was among officials on hand July 13 to dedicate the new park, which is being funded in part by a grant from the MFA Foundation.Funded by a private and public partnership, the first phase of the project cost $3.75 million and includes $495,000 from MU Health Care for sponsorship and naming rights of the pavilion for 10 years. The site is located on 10 acres of previously unused city-owned space in Clary-Shy Park, where the Boone County Fairgrounds were located between 1948 and 1991. The farmers market began operating there in 1980.

The Columbia Agriculture Park facilities are about half completed, according to project officials. The pavilion, which includes a perma­nent roof over the vendor area, is about one-third finished. Still to be built are a barn and greenhouse for the urban agriculture center, a small teaching classroom and demonstration gardens. The harvests will go to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri. The project will total around $8 million at completion, which is expected to be in 2021.

Learn more about the park online at https://buildthistown.org/

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Let’s get the Missouri River under control

With heartbreak, we have watched our friends and neighbors across the states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska suffer from the impacts of historic Missouri River flooding. This flooding was caused by severe winter weath­er, which included the infamous “bomb cyclone” pattern, leaving behind record river stages, a dam failure and scores of levee breaches with little warning for residents to move personal property, equipment and stored crops.

Much has been said about this event, including criticisms direct­ed toward the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While there will be plenty of time to analyze if anything could’ve been done better, we are thankful for the Corps’ efforts on several fronts, including positioning flood control gates at Gavins Point Dam to allow it to hold over 2 feet of extra water and stopping releases from Fort Randall Dam. These ex­traordinary measures undoubtedly prevented further damage.

While some are angry about misplaced priorities of the Corps, angst might be better directed at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which dictates much of the Corps’ actions. We are not implying the Service’s directives contributed to this extraordinary flooding but believe it’s worth pointing out its history of mandates to the Corps. These include implementation of artificial spring rises, construction of shallow water habitat chutes and notching of rock dikes that control the river’s channel—all unproven experiments to aid endangered pallid sturgeon.

The Service views the Missouri River as a pallid sturgeon laboratory, and its forced experiments have led to severe riverbank erosion, undercutting of levees and destruction of private property, result­ing in a changed river for people who live and work alongside it. While we support science-based spe­cies recovery efforts, any planned habitat construc­tion projects that increase flood risk should be dis­continued immediately.

Going forward, govern­ment agencies and stake­holders should engage in renewed discussion on how to enhance flood control throughout the system. While virtu­ally all the discussion has centered on the mainstem Missouri River regulated by dams, it’s worth noting this event primarily originated in the “unregulated” portion of the basin, which produces just less than half of the average runoff into the Missouri River. Any discussion that ignores this important fact misses the mark.

It’s time to redouble our efforts on providing lower Missouri River residents with an improved flood control system that can better withstand events of the magnitude we’re seeing in 2019. Flood control and protection of human life and property must be paramount in any decisions regarding Missouri River management. Serious consid­eration must be given to increased upstream flood control storage, whether that be in the mainstem dams or on tributary projects. Any proposed change in flood control storage must also keep an eye toward times of drought, which the Missouri River system is just as prone to. In addition, policy makers should take into account navigation, which is the other congressionally directed primary purpose of the sys­tem, as well as water supply needs for drinking water and utilities that we often take for granted but have an enormous impact in our every­day lives.

We are encouraged by the recent meeting between the governors of Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska and Corps leadership, focusing on solutions to protect against future floods. The governors stated they want to become more active in Missouri River management, and it’s high time they have a prominent seat at the table.

While large floods often create huge amounts of destruction and personal suffering, they also create the chance to be more resilient to future floods. For the benefit of regional economic development and opportunities for future genera­tions, we cannot delay these crucial conversations.

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A case for rural broadband

Deployment of both broadband internet and next-generation precision agriculture technology on farms and ranches throughout the U.S. could result in at least $47 billion in national economic benefits every year, according to USDA’s rural broadband report released in early May.

If broadband infrastructure and digital technologies were available at a level that meets esti­mated producer demand, the U.S. economy could realize benefits equivalent to nearly 18 percent of total agriculture production. Of that 18 percent, more than one-third is dependent on broadband access, equivalent to at least $18 billion in annual economic bene­fits that only high-speed, reliable internet can provide.

For years, USDA and the Ameri­can agriculture industry have been actively researching the feasibility, usage and potential upside of next-generation precision agricul­ture technologies, which include data collection and analysis. Until now though, the interde­pendency of these technologies and broadband internet has not been evaluated. The new report explores this relationship and quantifies the potential economic benefit of broadband buildout and the complementary adoption of connected agriculture technol­ogies.

The analysis opens the next chapter in USDA’s response to expand rural broadband and effectively use federal tax dollars in those efforts. Going forward, USDA will be engaged in multiple facets of infrastructure and technology deployment, including financing rural capital investments and supporting producers who are exploring which precision technologies are best suited to improve their operations and serve their customers.

The entire report, A Case for Rural Broadband: Insights on Rural Broadband Infrastructure and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies, is available online at www.usda.gov/broadband. You can find other infograph­ics like the one below in the report PDF. In addition to row crops, infographics for livestock and specialty crops are there.

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