Presiding Commissioner Steve Hobbs
There were three things clearly on the minds of those attending the Audrain County Farm Bureau’s 17th Annual Legislative Appreciation Banquet held last Friday in Mexico.
Most of the speeches covered updates on the possible passage of the farm bill, noted accomplishments and plans in Audrain County, and how the University of Missouri’s football team was doing in the Cotton Bowl played at the same time of the meeting.
Members of the Farm Bureau were joined by those representing the political arena for an evening that included a catered meal by the Knights of Columbus along with several speakers.
Audrain County Farm Bureau President Darren Reynolds gave the opening remarks. He welcomed those in attendance and recognized board members as well as state and local dignitaries.
Laddonia’s Jerry Johnson was the emcee of the annual event.
Field Representative Ray Bozarth was on hand to represent U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R). Bozarth says the Senator, who was unable to attend the event, believes “he’d like to see it (farm bill) done by early January, early February before those 1940’s ag policies kick into effect and increase milk prices…”
He said the Senator is wanting something long term to give certainty in allowing long term planning.
He also added Senator Blunt’s co-sponsoring of a bill with North Dakota Senator John Thune to eliminate the Death Tax last June.
With Missouri being second in the nation with family farms, he noted how the tax has been harmful to Missouri farmers.
Bozarth finished by saying Senator Blunt has also put his name on a letter directed at OSHA, who is trying to push themselves into making regulations on family farms.
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill’s Field Representative Matt Williams followed Bozarth by echoing his sentiments in regards to conversation on the farm bill. Sen. McCaskill was unable to attend the event.
He said he would like to see at least some talking taking place on the farm bill when the Senate is back in session.
He also congratulated the farm bureau for what it has been able to accomplish in the county.
Field Representative Aaron Baker, who was speaking on behalf of U.S. Representative Sam Graves (R), noted how several field representatives were sitting at one table and having a farm bill negotiation at the event.
He joked that Jerry Johnson was taking notes and would report their progress to Congress.
Baker said Rep. Graves is a farmer and he represents the northern half of Missouri in District 6.
He noted that if those in attendance wanted to know how Rep. Graves feels about government in general and on explosive growth of government and what it does to small business, they could read Ron Schott’s editorials in The Vandalia Leader.
Baker also mentioned progress on the Farm Bill as well as discussion on WRRDA (Water Resources Reform and Development Act).
WRRDA is a bill to put more funding and development or infrastructure on Missouri’s rivers.
He said sometimes those who are in agriculture that don’t live up on the rivers might forget the importance of the marine highways along with the locks and dams.
Rep. Graves sits on the WRRDA Conference committee.
“It’s really the first investment in our rivers in a long time, in about a decade or so,” Baker said.
Field Representative Austin Kramer, who represented U.S. Representative Vicki Hartzler (R), noted the representative’s District 4, which includes Mexico and west of Audrain County.
He said a conference committee will be meeting January 8-9 to discuss the controversial provisions of the farm bill.
Kramer encouraged those in attendance to contact Hartzler’s office with any questions or concerns.
State Representative Jeanie Riddle (R), of District 49, made an appearance as she has already announced her candidacy for the newly aligned State Senate District 10 seat currently held by Jolie Justus.
Rep. Riddle talked about the “Right to Farm” Constitutional amendment expected to appear on the state ballot in 2014.
She reminded those in attendance about Prop B and the glaring need to educate those living in the cities on the amendment.
“Most of us have friends and family all over this state so we can’t take for granted that we understand here what’s at stake,” she said. “It’s the right to have a secure food source, it’s the right to control our prices, it’s the right to have a choice as to what we eat, it’s the right to run your business, your farming industry as you wish within regulations that are humane and accurate.”
She said the vote is critical to heritage, food source, Missouri’s future, and security.
Rep. Riddle also made mention of an informational brochure put on the tables from the Missouri Farm Bureau.
District 43 Rep. Jay Houghton was unable to attend the event due to a family vacation.
Audrain County President Commissioner Steve Hobbs gave some brief comments. He first thanked those in attendance for paying their taxes.
He said Audrain County had a “very good” last year.
“I can tell you that the financial health of your county is excellent and that comes from the fact your elected officials are very careful with their money, with your money,” Hobbs said. “They spend it wisely. They take every opportunity that they can to put money back and that allows us to do some of the things you see going on at the courthouse now.”
He said last year the building was tuck pointed. This year, the county is hoping to repair it’s sidewalks and make the courthouse ADA accessible.
Road crews are working daily and bridge crews built two bridges this summer. He said one bridge was built on the Callaway County line and one was built off Highway NN. In 2014, it is expected to have one bridge built on the Ralls County line and another on the Monroe County line.
He also said two federal bridges will be built in 2014 after one was built this past year.
“We’re continuing the work that you have supported over the years to make sure that our roads are safe, that our bridges will be here for a long period of time, and trying to make sure we spend your dollars as wisely as possible…”
Assessor Melissa Maupin said her next week was going to get busy as assessment sheets have been mailed to county residents.
Prosecuting Attorney Jacob Shellabarger led off by giving attendees the updated Missouri football score before taking a more serious turn with his report.
He said he filed 1,083 cases in 2013 and just 837 in 2012.
“So we have had a substantial increase in domestic violence, in stealing, and in assaults,” he said. “Our neighbors aren’t being very neighborly to each other and our families aren’t protecting each other.”
He said residents have the power in the community to stop crime. He added that they have the power in churches and have power in other social groups to stop domestic violence and hold offenders accountable when they do break a law.
Shellabarger noted the importance of having witnesses to prosecute crimes.
While giving praise to county law enforcement agencies, he noted the need for neighbors to help neighbors in being willing to testify to things they know have happened in court.
Shellabarger mentioned the City of Columbia’s recent problems with unsolved shootings and how many people are afraid to report what they know to authorities.
He said the county owes a debt of gratitude to local law enforcement. Shellabarger expounded on Vandalia’s finest.
“The folks over in Vandalia have a tough situation,” he said. “They’re a small department and they work as hard as they can.”
He also mentioned WERDCC and the importance of those working there to be safe.
“I think it’s time for people to take back the streets,” Shellbarger said in his hope for 2014. “I think it’s time for people to hold their neighbors accountable as well.”
Audrain County Treasurer Patty Meyers said year end figures will be made available likely in a couple of weeks. She said it looks like the county finished the year “strong.”
Audrain County Recorder of Deeds Janis Deimeke talked about how her department has been able to put records up online through a secure website.
She also said many people have signed up for the fraud alert. Deimeke shared one success story of the program.
To sign up for the free alert, visit http://pfa.fidlar.com/MOAudrain/
She said she’s also looking to do E-filing, which will help title companies and their timelines to file things. This will be done at no cost to the county.
Audrain County Collector Kate Becker noted the addition of an online paysite. She also noted the opportunity for residents to be able to pay taxes in bulk.
Becker said commissioners have approved for a new software update for her office, which should help with handling payments by credit and debit cards.
With no emergency management representatives present, Becker encouraged those in attendance to sign up for Audrain County’s text alerts.
“Your county’s looking out for you,” Becker said. “Everyone has something coming in 2014 to improve our customer service to you and I think that’s because we all love you and we want to improve how we support our community.”