Gov. Nixon Signs Omnibus Agriculture Bill

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MEXICO - Gov. Jay Nixon visited a feed store in Mexico Monday to sign Senate Bill 356, also known as the omnibus agriculture bill.

While the bill covers many parts of Missouri agriculture, legislators stressed the most important part of the bill will protect farmers from losses due to grain dealer failure. This comes after Cathy Gieseker of Martinsburg was sentenced to prison last year on federal and state fraud and theft charges for one of the largest grain fraud schemes in Missouri history. Authorities said Gieseker duped about 180 farmers out of $27 million in grain deals when her business went under. Nixon held the bill signing ceremony near the site of where prosecutors said the scheme took place.

"The bill protects grain producers by reducing risk by grain dealers, by requiring increased financial security and oversight," Nixon said. "It requires grain dealers to maintain sufficient responsible working capital. The bill brings Missouri grain dealer licensing requirements more in line with Midwest grain producing states and it modernizes grain dealer law to better reflect today's markets and marketing grain practices."

The bill also clarifies that purchases and shipping of agriculture equipment are tax-exempt and exempt sales taxes for captive animals sold to hunting ranches. In addition, the bill expands requirements for landowners that prohibit the spread of noxious weeds. Furthermore it establishes the Missouri Farmland Trust Act to allow for the donation of farmland to help beginning farmers. It also establishes The Puppy Protection Trust Fund. This will give individuals and corporations the right to donate a minimum of $1 on their tax returns, or $2 for a combined return, to be used by the state for the administration of the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act. This is related to the revised Proposition B signed into law earlier this year.

Finally the bill allows for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to publish its annual brand book online, which is expected to save the state money on printing costs.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Clarence, said it's important to recognize how important agriculture is to the state of Missouri.

"It's been one of the bright shining lights the last couple of years as the economy slumped," Munzlinger said. "We've been able to forge ahead and keep going. Don't know how long that will be, but we need to have those protections in place."