Cattle producers in Missouri are up in arms after Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed two bills that were considered by the industry to be critical during the recent legislative session.
Nixon announced Tuesday he had vetoed a bill that would have ended the taxation of disaster assistance to farmers and ranchers, and another bill that would have exempted livestock owners from being liable for property damage inflicted by animals that escape confinement.
In a news release Wednesday the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association didn’t mince words in saying Nixon “turned his back” on farmers and ranchers in the state.
"This governor has once again turned his back on the farm and ranch families we represent. Despite overwhelming bipartisan support of these two bills, the governor threw them in the trash," said MCA Policy and Legislative Affairs Committee Chairman Jimmie Long.
"The governor never offered a compromise while these bills were being considered by the general assembly. He chose no communication other than his actions today."
SB 641, sponsored by Sen. Dave Schatz would have ended the taxation of agricultural disaster assistance as income.
In a letter explaining the veto Nixon said the bill would have created a hole in the state’s budget, requiring the state to issue more than $50 million in refunds for past payments “as part of any program that compensates agricultural producers” through USDA.
“These payments are specifically intended to replace lost income and represent profits that would otherwise be subject to taxation just like any other business profits,” Nixon wrote.
MCA President Keith Stevens said no other disaster assistance is taxable as income. Missouri would have followed the state of Arkansas that passed nearly identical legislation last year that was signed by the state's governor.
"In the governor's explanation of the veto, he is drastically exaggerating what the fiscal impact of this bill would be,” Stevens said in a news release.
“He also makes no mention of how assistance dollars are better served when the farmer or rancher can use those dollars in their entirety in their local communities. The governor is assuming we will have a disaster every single year. The fact is disasters are rare and typically occur about once a decade."
SB 844 sponsored by Sen. Mike Parson, would have changed state law that holds livestock owners strictly liable for any property damages from trespassing livestock. According to MCA livestock owners are liable even if “someone drives through the farmer’s fence.”
The legislation would require the livestock owner to be found negligent and not automatically assumed guilty.
In his veto letter, Nixon said the legislation would have provided less protection for the victims of damage caused by trespassing livestock.
“The responsibility for making the injured party whole for the action of these animals is and must continue to be placed with the owner of the trespassing animals,” Nixon writes.
“Further, nothing precludes the owner of those animals form subsequently pursuing a responsible third party, if one exists, and seeking damages and indemnification for any payments made to compensate the neighbor for damages.”
MCA’s Stevens said the association will make an attempt to override the vetoes.
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