by Joe Mueller
If the federal government’s .25% assessment on each bushel of soybeans is halted, a bill in the Missouri legislature would capture that amount and add it to the state’s current collection of .25%, giving additional millions to the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council.
“If the federal goes away and this (bill) were to go into effect, we would continue to collect at a rate of one-half of 1% like we are now,” Rep. Curtis Gregory, R-Marshall, told the House Agriculture Policy Committee on Tuesday during testimony on HB2387. “If the bill doesn’t go into effect and the federal is done away with, we’d revert back…to one-half a penny per bushel…That would not bring in the amount of funds necessary to fund the checkoff mission.”
Missouri farmers annually plant approximately five million acres of soybeans, resulting in 230 million bushels, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture. At a price of $8.90 a bushel, soybeans annually generate more than $2 billion of the state’s $88 billion agriculture economy.
“Soybeans is a big deal in Missouri,” Rep. Greg Sharpe, R-Ewing, said during the hearing. “Agriculture is a big deal and soybeans is the biggest deal.”
Based on an annual $2 billion harvest, the amount of a .5% checkoff – a government-created tax to fund research and marketing – would be $10 million.
Rep. Gregory added a mechanism where soybean farmers can request a refund of the .5% if the council is notified within 60 days of the payment.
“Missouri farmers would have full control over where their checkoff dollars are spent,” said Rep. Gregory, who testified he served on the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council before his election to the House. “Currently, it is not a refundable program.”
Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis, was the only committee member to oppose the refund.
“I’m not a huge fan of people being able to opt out of something like this because, to me, that just seems like it’s folks freeloading on the marketing and education and things like that,” said Rep. McCreery said. “I’m not a huge fan of the opt out and that includes other payments made in the workplace.”
No one testified in opposition to the bill. The legislation is also part of agriculture omnibus bill HB1720, sponsored by Rep. Brad Pollitt, R-Sedalia.
“For me as a farmer, I’m happy to pay this because I know that I can’t contact an out-of-country market like Taiwan or China to expand soybean exports,” said Rep. Sharpe. “That’s what these dollars are for and they also fund vital research.”
In 2019, the top export markets for Missouri soybeans were Mexico, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea and Nepal, according to the Department of Agriculture.
“Half the beans in the United States are exported and to parts of the world where they don’t eat bread, don’t eat potatoes,” Rep. Sharpe said. “They eat rice, tofu or other soy food. They eat it just like we eat potatoes and protecting those markets is a pretty big deal.”
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Joe Mueller covers Missouri for The Center Square. After seven years of reporting for daily newspapers in Illinois and Missouri, he spent the next 30 years in public relations serving non-profit organizations and as a strategic communications consultant.