The current state of agriculture, upcoming legislation, and bridges were among the topics discussed during the Audrain County Farm Bureau’s 18th Annual Legislative Appreciation Banquet at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Mexico.
At the beginning of the banquet, Erma Wrye introduced all of the Audrain County Farm Bureau’s board members, county officials, state/federal officials, and local media.
She also told those in attendance that the Audrain County Farm Bureau was named the top bureau in District 3 for the 12th straight year.
Patty Fennewald gave the invocation and was followed by a speech from Missouri State freshman Brittney McBride.
She challenged those in attendance to imagine what farming would be like today if the Missouri Farm Bureau had not been developed 100 years ago.
“Throughout the past 100 years, agriculture has conquered more than any other industry in America,” she said.
She talked about how Farm Bureau’s programs helped farmers get through the Great Depression, technology challenges, increasing prices, loan issues, and more.
She also noted the problems caused by environmentalists with their legislation and how the Farm Bureau continues to be the “voice of agriculture.”
Jerry Johnson was the moderator of the event and introduced each legislative speaker.
Ray Bozarth, Field Representative for Sen. Roy Blunt (R), addressed those in attendance. He noted how President Barack Obama opened up relations with Cuba. Bozarth said the then Rep. Blunt had once worked as the WHIP on trade with Cuba on a condition that goods were sold if goods were paid for before Cuba received them.
At that time, Bozarth said Cuba stopped paying for the goods. Folks selling to that country came to the U.S. seeking money, and the U.S. would end up indirectly subsidizing a failed government system.
He said that Cuba is a logical trading partner but there are concerns on payments for goods. Instead, it might be better for Missouri to focus on selling products to better paying countries.
“So it’s better to be selling Missouri agricultural products to folks who will pay for it then not,” Bozarth added.
Bozarth also updated those in attendance on the Keystone Pipeline.
He said the project will create some jobs that lead to other jobs as well as lessen the U.S. dependence on fossil fuels from foreign countries.
Bozarth said Sen. Blunt would like to see a budget approach return in Congress. He also wants a return to a 40-hour work week as the standard from 30 hours in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
When it comes to immigration, Sen. Blunt recently co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Ron Johnson to prohibit funds to be used for an executive order regarding amnesty.
Bozarth also noted the importance of securing the border.
Austin Kramer, Field Representative for U.S. Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (District 4-R), said in the last week, the House passed a bill in regards to the 40-hour work week need for ACA, a Keystone Pipeline provision, and a bill to encourage employers with incentives to hire more veterans coming home from war and transitioning back to civilian life.
He said Rep. Hartzler will serve on agriculture and nutrition committees this term.
Kramer said Rep. Hartzler worked with the House and the Senate in the spending bill to cut EPA funding by $60 million.
“So maybe they will focus on other things and stay out of the farmer’s business, hopefully, we’ll see how that goes,” Kramer said.
Kramer said there are new programs involving the Farm Bill and encouraged those in attendance to contact a variety of resources. He said folks can contact Rep. Hartlzer’s Washington, D.C. office for information.
Bryan Nichols, Field Representative for Rep. Sam Graves (District 6-R), said he came to the event from the Hannibal office.
Nichols noted the EPA cut in funding to 1989 levels, which gives the EPA a large reduction in staff.
He said in the last year, the EPA was looking at wood burning stoves and wanting them to lower their emissions.
“When you burn wood, guess what, there’s smoke, that’s how it works,” he said. “And it is an efficient means of heating your homes specifically in these rural areas.”
He noted the last year on the propane costs.
He said Congressman Graves and others fought against that EPA initiative and it never came to pass.
Allan said Rep. Graves will be the chair for the highways subcommittee this year.
Rep. Jay Houghton (District 43-R) attended the banquet. He talked about personal information farmers give to the Department of Agriculture. There’s a plan for a shift to make sure that personal information is not made available to the public, though it is now.
He also talked about the big Agriculture Bill having a piece of legislation tacked onto it dealing with a deer issue.
“Let me tell you what people, if you’re in agriculture, the Missouri Department of Conservation is not your friend,” Rep. Houghton said. “Because they killed that bill. Plain and simple, they killed it.”
Rep. Houghton said the Department of Conservation is trying to put a legitimate Missouri business out of business.
Rep. Houghton said he will be the Ag. Policy Chairperson this year.
“I’m ready for it,” he said. “It was something I really worked hard to do.”
He said people in agriculture are not afraid to take on the tough issues.
Johnson followed Rep. Houghton’s presentation by giving the “Friend of Agriculture Award” to Rep. Jay Houghton.
Audrain County Presiding Commissioner Steve Hobbs noted that Skip Wilson, of MoDOT, was having a retirement party the same night as the banquet. Commissioners Roger Young and Tom Groves both attended that event.
He thanked those in legislature for all they do.
Hobbs said budgets are being worked on by county officials and says how it’s “fun to work with a group of people who care that much.”
He said the renovations on the Audrain County Courthouse are just about complete and noted the completion of the sidewalks.
“Hopefully they’ll last another 60 years,” Hobbs said about the sidewalks.
Hobbs said that as of the banquet, there are only four federal bridges needing to be replaced.
Bridges include the “484” bridge on the Cuivre River, “172” bridge on Highway D, “551” bridge on the Montgomery County line that gets hit by combines, a bridge on a public road just outside of Mexico, and the Clark St. bridge in Mexico over the railroad tracks.
He said it might never be replaced since it goes over the railroads.
Another bridge on the Ralls County line will be built this Spring and another towards Montgomery County will be built this Summer.
“We’re just about to the end of this (bridge) program,” Hobbs said. “Thank you very much for your support on our bridge program over the years and I believe it’s been hugely successful. Bridges have been built as promised and is something for all of us to be proud of.”
Hobbs said that bridges over 20’ in length, are eligible for replacement in the program but if 19’10”, they are not eligible.
He said the county is identifying those 19’10” bridges and looking at possible cost-sharing for help in replacing those bridges.
“I can tell you we are one of the very few counties in the state of Missouri that has completed replacing their deficient bridges and we are leader in that,” Hobbs added. “We’ve got a lot more work left to do. We’ve identified over 150 structures in our county that are under 20’ in length that are going to need replacing.”
He gave an example that a 70’ bridge costs $245,000 to replace.
Prosecuting Attorney Jacob Shellabarger said he appreciates the value that Audrain County has placed on his office.
Shellabarger said his office handles about 1,000 criminal cases a year, but that doesn’t include items like traffic tickets, or an opinion on issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
He talked briefly about domestic violence. He called it “domestic terrorism.”
“Your law enforcement in this community is serious about fighting domestic violence,” Shellabarger said.
He said the matter needs to be treated seriously and nobody deserves to be apart of it.
Shellabarger said there were more jury trials this past year than in the five years prior to 2014.
“I appreciate the value and trust that you placed in me and the folks in my office,” Shellabarger said. “We’re going to go out and do the best we can to serve those victims in crime and try to bring some accountability home.”
Audrain County Recorder of Deeds Janis Deimeke thanked the media for their help in getting the word out on a company that is contacting county residents wanting to know if they want certified copies at a high rate for deed copies.
Deimeke said there is also a software that will alert folks when there is activity in the Recorder of Deeds office involving a person’s record.
She also noted some technological upgrades for recording.
Audrain County Treasurer Patty Meyers thanked everyone for their support. She said sales tax was up around 6% this year. General revenues are showing an increase from the year before.
Meyers said she’s currently working on end-of-the-year figures.
Audrain County Assessor Missy Maupin said a form has been sent out will need to be turned in. Maupin said sheets must be signed.
New aerial photography recently arrived showing closer views of the county than what was available in the past. She’s hoping to have them on the county website in the near future.
Audrain County Collector Kate Becker said things went okay this year. She noted the Hospital Tax and that it won’t go off until 2017.
Becker said there’s about 92% collection and she expects to have month end for December finalized shortly.
Steve Roberts, the Northeast Regional Coordinator of the Missouri Farm Bureau, also made some brief remarks.
For the first time in 18 years of the banquet, an auction was held to raise money for agricultural education in classrooms at local school districts. Jeff Fennewald performed auctioneer dutires.
A bear, carved in wood by Gary Wrye, was auctioned off.
There was also a wine basket. Darren Reynolds donated a pine bench, that was also auctioned off.
The bench went for $70, the wine basket raised $85, and the bear raised $220.
Wrye said she is retiring in the Spring and that this will be her last banquet in which she will coordinate.
Wrye said “good friends are like quilts, they age with you yet never lose their warmth.”
She said she feels that way about the Farm Bureau members and has enjoyed her many years serving in her current position.