Act would support Missouri agriculture

Friday, March 2, 2007

Dear Editor:

The Missouri legislature has an important opportunity to support agriculture through the Missouri Farm and Food Preservation Act. MFA supports this legislation, because it empowers farmers.

As a cooperative, MFA operates a business made of farmers and designed to serve farmers. In fact, our organization and its 47,000 members are proof that farming is an economic multiplier for the state. MFA's 1,600 employees, their payroll and the economic activity that pushes out from our 109 retail locations and 51 affiliates depend on agriculture.

MFA operates eight feed mills with an annual production of more than 400,000 tons, so we witness firsthand through our customers how interrelated the livestock industry is with the rest of Missouri agriculture. Disabling one sector of agriculture--as recently adopted county health ordinances have done--will be detrimental to the rest.

Remember, agriculture employs some 400,000 people or about 15 percent of Missouri's work force. It truly is the economic bedrock of Missouri.

The Missouri Farm and Food Preservation Act recognizes that existing state and federal regulatory standards for livestock operations are onerous and thorough. Family farmers must comply with these regulations to stay in business. Yet, to survive the modern economics of agriculture, family farmers must have the opportunity to expand and modernize their operations.

Over the past few years, a team of MU economists and livestock specialists calculated a combined effect of $1.1 billion of economic activity from the swine industry in Missouri. That's about $590 million in production alone with associated spending on wages, equipment, building, etc. making the balance. The number for beef enterprises was $1.5 billion. For dairy, it was $402 million.

These numbers represent a snapshot in time and change with prices, but the narrative they offer is simple: livestock agriculture is a mainstay of our economy. And these livestock operations, even with the surge in ethanol production, continue to be the largest customers for Missouri's grain farmers.

Certainly agriculture must bear the cost of reasonable regulations, but ad hoc and patchwork efforts, such as the county health ordinances we've seen so far, are an unfair, unscientific and anti-agriculture burden.

The Missouri Farm and Food Preservation Act recognizes the importance of agriculture in Missouri. We hope you take the time to understand it and support it.


Don Copenhaver

President and CEO

MFA Incorporated