New Clean Water Rule gives farmers clear guidelines

Missouri’s farmers and ranchers may soon have clear rules about how to protect our waterways. On Dec. 11, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new Clean Water Rule that would fix many of the problems creat­ed by the Obama administration’s 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule.

Missouri farmers had many complaints with the WOTUS rule. One of the strongest was that the rule was so broad and vague that almost any land could fall under it. A 2015 Mis­souri Farm Bureau analysis found that more than 99 percent of Missouri lands could fall under the Obama rule’s jurisdic­tion. With such ambiguous guidelines, landowners could do everything possible to follow the law but still not know if they were committing a violation.

The EPA describes the new rule as “clear and easy to un­derstand.” They claim it will be easier for a property owner to “understand whether a project on his or her property will require a federal permit or not, without spending tens of thousands of dollars on engineering and legal professionals.”

The new rule respects the role of states in protecting the nation’s water resources, according to the EPA. Missouri has a strong and active Department of Natural Resources that en­forces Missouri water laws. This local control provides expert oversight to Missouri’s water resources.

The new rule does limit the extent of federal jurisdiction to the actual scope of the law. For example, ground features like ditches and ephemeral streams—streams that only flow when it rains—are far outside the scope of the Clean Water Act. The EPA has no legal authority to regulate them. But the Obama-era rule claimed jurisdiction over many of them anyway.

Regulations can’t write new law; they must be within the constraints of their authorizing statute. The new proposed rule would only regulate waters that are clearly intended to be covered by the statute, and it would do so with a much more common-sense approach.

Once the Clean Water Rule is published in the Federal Register, citizens will have 60 days to submit comments. This new proposal is a very positive step for rural America. Mis­souri’s farm and ranch families will be supporting it, because to protect our resources and keep our water clean, we need clear, common-sense rules.

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GMO foes know less than they think

GMOFoesThe people who hold the most extreme views opposing genetically modified foods think they know most about GMO food science but actually know the least, according to new research.

The key finding of the paper, published Jan. 14 in Nature Human Behaviour, is that the more strongly people report being opposed to GMO foods, the more knowledgeable they think they are on the topic, but the lower they score on an actual knowledge test.

Marketing and psychology researchers, including Sydney Scott, assistant professor of marketing at Washington University’s Olin Business School in St. Louis, asked more than 2,000 U.S. and European adults for their opinions about GMO foods. The surveys asked respondents how well they thought they understood genetically modified foods, then tested how much they actually knew with a battery of true-false questions on general science and genetics. More than 90 percent of study respondents reported some level of opposition to GMO foods.

Multiple research teams separately were investigating the same topic, and combined forces once they learned of each other’s pursuit, Scott said. The collaboration was among researchers at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder; Washington University in St. Louis; the University of Toronto; and the University of Pennsylvania.

“This result is consistent with previous research on the psychology of extremism,” said Phil Fernbach, the study’s lead author and professor of marketing at Colorado. “Extreme views often stem from people feeling they understand complex topics better than they do.”

A potential consequence of the phenomenon, according to the paper’s authors, is that the people who know the least about important scientific issues may be likely to stay that way, because they may not seek out—or be open to—new knowledge.

The authors also explored other issues, such as gene therapy and climate change denial. They found the same results for gene therapy.

However, the pattern did not emerge for climate change denial. The researchers hypothesize that the climate change debate has become so politically polarized that people’s attitudes depend more on which group they affiliate with than how much they know about the issue.

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Marshall to lead Missouri Farmers Care

MFC Wessler MarshallMissouri Corn Growers Association CEO Gary Marshall, left, presents retiring Missouri Farmers Care Chairman Alan Wessler with an award for outstanding contributions at the MFC Annual Meeting on Jan. 10. Members elected Marshall as new chairman.Missouri Farmers Care, an organization representing the state’s farmers and ranchers, elected Missouri Corn Growers Associ­ation CEO Gary Marshall as incoming chairman during the MFC annual meeting on Jan 10. Marshall fills the role of Alan Wessler, who led MFC for four years and recently retired from MFA Incor­porated as vice president of feed operations and animal health.

“On behalf the 45 groups organized under Missouri Farmers Care, we thank Dr. Wessler for his leadership in helping move Mis­souri agriculture forward,” Marshall said. “I am excited to continue the organization’s mission of protecting our members’ right to farm and encouraging agricultural development across the state.”

Established in 2010, MFC is a membership-based alliance com­prised of the state’s commodity groups and agribusinesses dedicat­ed to promoting the growth of Missouri agriculture. MFA is one of the member organizations. Under Wessler’s leadership, the coali­tion launched several successful initiatives, including the Missouri Agri-Ready County Designation program, a voluntary status earned by counties cultivating agriculture as a resource for economic de­velopment. To date, 58 counties are certified as Agri-Ready.

In addition to economic development, MFC invests in people and communities through a summer food drive campaign as well as agriculture education and outreach programs. In 2018, the col­laborative Drive to Feed Kids campaign raised resources to supply nearly 1.8 million meals for hungry children across the state.

“What I come away with from my years as chairman for Missouri Farmers Care is an appreciation for the true team effort that goes into the organization,” Wessler said. “It has been my honor to serve this organization in this capacity, and I am not going totally away. I will represent MFA on the executive committee, and I plan to stay involved in Missouri agriculture. Our challenges from those who do not understand the importance of agriculture in Missouri’s economy are not going away. We must always stay diligent.”

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