Agriculture is leaving Missouri behind

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Dear Editor:

As long as the debate about who controls regulations on livestock operations continues, agriculture will leave Missouri behind. While regulations increase in Missouri, livestock operations grow in other states.

Take for instance Missouri's dairy industry. It is in a freefall. In 1975, Missouri had 302,000 dairy cows and today has 114,000. Likewise, the number of dairy farms has dropped significantly from 21,000 to 2,700. In 1995, Missouri ranked 14th in dairy production and now ranks 21st.

This has had devastating effects on the infrastructure supporting dairy in Missouri. Eleven dairy plants have closed. Other dairy suppliers are going out of business because of lack of customers, and the number of large animal veterinarians and extension dairy specialists has declined dramatically, leaving the remaining dairy producers paying more for hauling, supplies and services.

Kansas, a wheat state, has surpassed Missouri in dairy production largely due to the addition of 30 state-of-the-art operations in western Kansas. These have been expansions or relocations of family-owned California state dairies pushed out by urban development.

Why not Missouri? One reason tossed around by national experts is the perception that Missouri's environmental regulations are too strict. The 16 counties enacting county regulations have added yo this perception in spades.

If Missouri's own dairy producers who want to grow their business are going to survive, they must be in an environment that allows expansion to happen. Adding another layer of regulation does not contribute to a positive environment.

Complying with Missouri and federal regulations is tough enough. Let's not force agriculture to leave Missouri behind.

I encourage you to support the Missouri Farm and Food Preservation Act.


Dave Drennan

Executive Director

Missouri Dairy Association

Jefferson City, Missouri