May 30, 2002

Rep. Berkowitz Hails Passage Of State Farm Bill

Rep. Sam Berkowitz, D-Memphis, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, says the Missouri General Assembly has distinguished itself with passage of the 2002 legislative session's agriculture legislation. The Missouri Senate passed the legislative package, House Bill 1348, Friday by a large margin.

"Missouri's family farmers have won another great victory today," said Rep. Berkowitz who authored portions of the bill and lead debate on agriculture legislation on the House floor. "We in the General Assembly have once again sent the message to Missouri's farmers that we are here to help and that we intend to be the worldwide leaders in the new world of agriculture."

The centerpiece of the farm bill is legislation sponsored by Rep. Berkowitz that helps the state's ethanol producers recoup money owed to them by the state from the Qualified Fuel Ethanol Producer Incentive Fund. Under the terms of the fund, the producing facilities at Craig and Macon were to receive state grants based on their output for the first 60 months the plants were in operation. But the state has fallen behind in its funding of the program, some say by as much as $1 million, due to the state's budget crisis.

The bill states that the producers will receive the full amount they are owed up to 24 months beyond the original 60-month period, or until they receive the full amount they are due. The bill also puts the fund on a fiscal year from a calendar year to match state budgeting cycles.

"Through no fault of their own, these fledgling companies have not been able to take full advantage of a state program that was created to help them," said Rep. Berkowitz. "These are the kinds of new and innovative companies we are seeking to partner with our family farmers in the fight for long-term survival. We must do all we can to protect them and help their growth."

The bill also provides incentives for qualified biodiesel producers and other eligible new generation processing entities. Among numerous other provisions, it also bans the sale or storage of the fuel additive MTBE after July 31, 2005.

"The General Assembly in the four years since I have become a member, has enacted laws and programs that are even now stimulating our rural economy," said Rep. Berkowitz. "We must now be vigilant in our efforts to maintain that momentum to ensure that our family farmers not only survive, but prosper in the years to come.

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