Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
In honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, American farmers and ranchers are celebrating the more than 40 ways raising cattle can contribute to environmental sustainability.
Dawn Thurnau from the Missouri Beef Industry Council says that over 86% of all cattle farmers and ranchers cite environmental stewardship and environmental resources as the most important elements of their success, and say they have embraced the values of Earth Day for generations.
“The steps that we take to improve the environment are not new. They’ve been around for many decades. As short-term tenants of the land, it’s our job to ensure it’s left in better shape for the next generation.”
Thurnau says that many aren’t aware of how cattle farming and ranching has evolved in their conservation practices over the years, or just how many people each farmer feeds.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that beef farmers provide more people with nutritious beef products using fewer natural resources than ever before. Today’s American farmer feeds 144 people worldwide, and we’ll need to feed even more in the future.”
Thurnau goes on to describe the many environmental benefits of cattle farming and ranching.
“Pastures provide forage and habitat for numerous wildlife species, including 20 million deer, 500,000 antelope, 400,000 elk and 55,000 horses and burrows.”
She also says that farmers and ranchers who are landowners have restored or enhanced 445,000 acres and 885 river miles of habitat for fish and wildlife, and employ a variety of environmentally friendly practices.
“Farmers also do things like rotational grazing to make sure the grass stays fresh as long as possible. Of course, manure is the most natural form of fertilizer there is. These little practices that cattle farmers do every single day to protect the land, that’s what people talk about during Earth Day, but they don’t realize this is an everyday thing for cattle producers.”
As farmers pour into local co-ops and other fertilizer retailers to prepare for spring planting, many find long lines or shortages of the anhydrous ammonia they need for fields.
“Nobody had much of a chance to get work done last fall because harvest was late and wet, so pretty much it’s left all the anhydrous ammonia to go on this spring and caused a logistical nightmare,” said Bill Coen, vice president of plant foods and transportation for MFA, Inc. “Guys who have been in the business 40 years haven’t seen this type of spring unfold before where everyone’s running at once. It’s very unusual.”
University of Missouri Extension soil specialist Peter Scharf recommends that farmers not squander prime planting time to wait for anhydrous.
“I advise farmers to plant when conditions are right even if that means finding another way to get their nitrogen on,” Scharf said.
“Pre-emerge, post-emerge, sidedress, topdress, broadcasting, injected, dribbled—there are lots of ways to get it done that will work – and the plants aren’t picky about when they get it.
“Research suggests that as long as you get your nitrogen down before corn is three feet tall there is no average yield difference from getting it on before planting.”
MFA is not the only business dealing with anhydrous supply issues. Conditions across the Midwest seem to be the reason for the trouble for everyone.
“Generally [field work] starts in the south – Texas and Oklahoma – and they will finish before we start, but this year we had the whole upper and lower Midwest dry up at the same time,” Coen said. “Once that started we ended up draining the supply in the state in a week’s time, where our terminals went through three to four weeks’ storage in a week’s time.”
Compounding the problem is transportation issues.
Coen explained that there are a limited number of anhydrous transfer trailers. Those typically travel from state to state servicing the needs of co-ops and distributors as the planting season progresses from south to north. Since Missouri fields didn’t dry up until about 10 days after neighboring states, the trucks weren’t available here to transport anhydrous from terminals near the Kansas/Missouri and Missouri/Illinois borders to local co-ops.
Coen noted that the problem may begin to lessen somewhat. He estimates that about half of farmers have applied nitrogen now.
Scharf advises that there are ways to get the nitrogen on fields other than anhydrous.
“Anhydrous is the cheapest nitrogen source and the most resistant to loss, but the slowest to apply,” he said. “Given how far behind we are in field operations, other sources that are faster to apply are a good choice this year.
“They’re a little more expensive, but less expensive than losing yield because you didn’t plant when there were ideal conditions.” Sidedress application of anhydrous later in the season is another way to deal with the current bottleneck. “It will probably be a lot easier to get in a few weeks.”
Scharf warned of problems with planting too soon after application. Ammonia is toxic to seeds, which can be a potential problem if they come in contact.
“Placing the anhydrous deep enough to prevent seed contact is more important than a time lag between application and planting,” said Scharf.
Another option is that farmers with RTK GPS systems can use the system to maintain a constant distance between the application track and the seed furrow.
As far as phosphorus and potassium fertilizer goes, Scharf said many fields are positioned well even if none are applied this spring.
“For people who have in the past had a regular nutrient program, their soil should have enough stored to supply what the crop needs,” Scharf said. “If they like a cushion they can double up next time they apply fertilizer.
“Farmers haven’t had to deal with this before and that’s been stressful, but there are ways to get around this predicament.”
BEHIND CLOSED TRACTOR CAB DOORS
By Blake Hurst
It was our first tractor with a cab, and I was driving – our first tractor with a radio, and I had it tuned to clear channel KWMT, blaring out country hits. Charlie Rich was my hero, and I was belting out “Behind Closed Doors" in a tuneless holler when I noticed a noise, sort of a clicking sound, followed by a wet thud.
Then, just as I got to the really neat part of the song, and had taken a deep breath so I could really belt out the part about closed doors, it occurred to me that the tractor was slowing down. Nope, it had plain stopped. Maybe I ought to push in the clutch. Well, there seems to be a little mud – I may be almost stuck. I'll put the power shift transmission in reverse, rev up my 135 horses and try it backwards. Whoops, maybe I should have lifted up the disk. Whoa, it doesn't lift up very well. I'll try going forward; and again. Backwards will surely work this time; almost had it. Why is Dad driving across the field so fast, waving his hat?
Well, it seems he wants to talk to me, "talk" being used in only the most general sense. Talk implies reasonable conversation, at a reasonable level, with reasoned discourse between two people. He talks, I talk. That was not what happened. I'm always willing, no eager, to tell my side of the story. This is sometimes a fault, as I soon learned, not the only lesson I would learn that day and the next.
He pointed out I was in the middle of a wet spot, one he had told me about. He went on to talk about life, and the futility of endeavoring to reverse an irreversible situation, of fighting unbeatable odds, of attempting to climb an unclimbable mountain, of trying again and again to reach a goal that can't be reached. A philosopher, my dad. I've left out some of the words he used, some I'd never heard him use before. I didn't even know he knew those words. I filed them away for further experimentation, preferably when my mother wasn't around.
We got another tractor and a chain. It had been a wet spring, and Dad had pulled out several stuck tractors, so many that the log chain was stiff and straight. We broke the chain. Then Dad said, "Get in the pickup, I'm taking you home." It was a very silent trip. I was not unpleased by this turn of events. I had school the next day, and by the time I got home, the tractor would surely be out of the mud, and maybe KWMT would play that song about Delta Dawn.
Who knew people could go to work before the sun came up? Who knew you couldn't hear KWMT at 5:15 a.m.? Who knew you could dig out a stuck tractor with a spade? The tractor was buried to its axle, and I had to dig a trench in front of all four wheels. My friends were in bed. My brothers were in bed. My dad went back to the house for breakfast. No sounds except the birds, the suck of the spade, and the water running back into the hole I was digging.
Dad eventually came back, surveyed my work and told me to keep digging. Grandpa came to work, but not before stopping by the scene of what surely must have been cruelty to his oldest grandchild. No sympathy there. In fact, I'm not sure, but he may have been smiling as he left. Dad came back again, and I asked if we could hook the tractor on and try to pull it out. Nope, that wouldn't be possible. The hired hand showed up. I know he was smiling. Well, laughing, actually.
I've been stuck since then, but never so badly. Dad has philosophized since then, but never so loudly. Grandpa is gone, and I'd dig another tractor out of the mud if he could stop by just once more, even if it was to laugh at me. Family farms are businesses and homes, made up of land and tractors and sheds and animals, but to me, the most important part is the memories. I've avoided that wet spot for nearly 40 years, and I can still sing “Behind Closed Doors,” although you wouldn't want to hear it.
(Blake Hurst, of Westboro, Mo., is vice-president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.)
By providing tax credit incentives for Missouri businesses, we put people to work and we are able to grow our state’s economy – which is needed now more than ever. More jobs mean people are buying homes and buying properties that fund education through property taxes and sales taxes. If we take tax credits away, as the Governor suggests, education will be negatively effected.
Many of us would welcome the Governor to look at the tax credit program and conduct a cost-benefit analysis and really research how we can improve the system. That way, we will have an in-depth perspective of good changes that could be made – but he has not offered any concrete suggestion. I am also interested to know why the Governor has been promoting tax credits relentlessly for the past year and a half. In fact, the only time he has ever visited the House floor during session was to lobby for our economic development bill which included tax credit incentives for businesses.
The Speaker has taken a firm stance against pushing the Governor’s hollow proposal to eliminate tax credits – especially since we are entering the last weeks of session. The House has been slow and steady, looking all recommendations, before we push any legislation through the process and we will handle tax credits the same way.
Lucky mushroom hunters who have bagged more fungi than they can eat can freeze some for later, said a University of Missouri Extension nutrition specialist.
“It’s best to freeze the extras the same day you picked them, not several days later when you haven’t had time to use them,” said Janet Hackert.
First, you need to clean them. “Wild mushrooms tend to have lots of tiny insects in all those cracks and crevices,” she said.
To clean, rinse in salt water, changing the water several times to draw out the bugs. Remove clean mushrooms promptly; soaking mushrooms too long can dilute the flavor.
For freezing, use small to medium mushrooms. You can quarter, slice or leave them whole. Prepare mushrooms by blanching, steaming or sautéing to inactivate enzymes that can cause color and texture to deteriorate.
--To blanch, place mushrooms in boiling water mixed with either 1 teaspoon lemon juice or 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid for each pint of water. Boil slices for 3 minutes, quarters and buttons for 3 1/2 minutes, and whole mushrooms for 5 minutes.
--To steam, first dip mushrooms for 5 minutes in water with the same proportion of lemon juice or citric acid as used for blanching. Steam pieces or whole mushrooms for the same amount of time you would blanch them.
--To sauté, heat small amounts in butter or oil until almost done.
After blanching, steaming or sautéing, immediately cool the mushrooms in ice water and drain well.
You can freeze them plain or breaded. Breadings include flour, a mixture of corn and flour, and breadcrumbs. Eggs, milk or water work well as liquids for the coating to stick to. Freeze breaded mushrooms in a single layer on a cookie sheet before bagging.
Place mushrooms in an airtight container, leaving a half inch of space at the top.
“For best flavor, use within one to two months,” Hackert said.
For more information about freezing, see the MU Extension publication “Quality for Keeps: Freezing Unusual Fruits and Vegetables” (GH1507), available for purchase or free download at http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=GH1507.
Know your mushrooms
Experts urge mushroom hunters to thoroughly familiarize themselves with edible mushroom species and any poisonous lookalikes. For pictures and descriptions of edible mushroom species, see www.mdc.mo.gov/nathis/mushrooms/mushroom/edible.htm.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Following several days of heated floor debate on the issue, U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mark Warner (D-VA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and a group of senators are sending a letter to Senate leadership pushing to change the way the Senate does business by putting an end to rules that allow members to secretly block legislation and nominations.
McCaskill, Warner and Whitehouse, along with at least 18 of their colleagues, are pledging to not place ‘secret holds’ and are calling upon Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to end the practice and force senators to give a public explanation of why they are blocking a certain piece of legislation or a nomination. Despite measures passed as part of sweeping ethics reform legislation in 2007 to require senators who want to place a hold on bills and nominations to be transparent about their objections, senators continue to circumvent the rules and file anonymous holds.
“While we deeply respect and appreciate the importance of tradition in this institution, we believe the practice of the secret hold has no rightful place in the Senate or in an open and transparent democracy. When a member of the Senate wishes to hold legislation or a nomination, that Senator owes to this body and, more importantly, to the American public a full explanation,” the letter reads.
They are now asking their colleagues to join them in their pledge by opening up the letter to all Democratic and Republican senators for signature.
The discussion of secret holds arose because approximately 80 nominations are being blocked anonymously and without explanation. These nominees are largely non-controversial and were voted out of committee without opposition. On Tuesday of this week, McCaskill and Whitehouse called up dozens of nominees for consideration; Republicans objected repeatedly. Today’s letter reaffirms the senators’ commitment to ending the practice of secret holds and encourages colleagues to follow the spirit of ethics reform.
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Leader Reid and Leader McConnell,
We the undersigned Senators hereby pledge that we will not place secret holds on legislation or nominations.
We further call upon you to bring an end to the practice of permitting secret “holds” on legislation and nominations for those Senators who are unprepared to make the same pledge. While we deeply respect and appreciate the importance of tradition in this institution, we believe the practice of the secret hold has no rightful place in the Senate or in an open and transparent democracy. When a member of the Senate wishes to hold legislation or a nomination, that Senator owes to this body and, more importantly, to the American public a full explanation. The Senate endorsed this principle in Section 512 of S.1, passed by a vote of 96-2 on January 18, 2007.
As you know, S.1 has failed in practice to end the use of secret holds. We, therefore, urge you to promptly consider further changes to the Senate rules in order to bring a clear and definitive end to secret holds on legislation or a nomination. We stand ready to work with you on such a rule change, as long advocated for by Senators Wyden and Grassley, the leaders of a decade-long effort to eliminate secret holds in the Senate. We applaud their work and believe it must now be pursued to its conclusion.
Again, in making this request, we pledge that we will not place secret holds on legislation or a nomination.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)
Senator Jim Webb (D-VA)
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)
Senator Mark Udall (D-CO)
Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Senator Mark Begich (D-AK)
Senator Roland Burris (D-IL)
Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE)
Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Senator Al Franken (D-MN)
Cc: Senator Charles Schumer, Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules
Senator Robert Bennett, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Rules
Senator Ron Wyden
Senator Charles Grassley
Tax Credit for Pregnancy Resource Centers
This week the Missouri House gave approval to HB 2252, which provides a continuation of the successful tax credit program for pregnancy resource centers in our state. As someone who is strongly pro-life, I believe we should have no abortions in our state. One way to reduce abortions is to help our pregnancy resource centers. These centers provide resources and education to women who are expectant mothers or recently had a baby and who have no other support network available. These women and their children deserve and need a helping hand. These resource centers provide advice on child-rearing, job training, maternity and baby clothes, and referrals for medical care, all at no cost.
HB 2252 reauthorizes this tax credit so Missourians can choose to support them when they file their income tax returns and that will go to support these centers. It is also important to note these centers are run by the private market, not the government. Part of being pro-life is supporting and protecting those who cannot protect themselves. Missouri's pregnancy resource centers are an excellent and cost effective way to do so.
Public Prayer Amendment
I was also supportive of an initial approval to HJR 62 this week. This proposed constitutional amendment guarantees a person's right to worship and pray on public property without the fear of intimidation. This is already allowed and protected in the US Constitution, but amazingly enough people are continually challenging this freedom in court. The purpose of this amendment is to make it perfectly clear that in Missouri we can freely pray in public without fear of legal repercussions.
The lack of education on this issue is especially important in regard to Missouri school children. Many students do not understand their rights and often feel intimidated to not show their faith at school out of fear. HJR 62 makes it clear to all students they are allowed to pray and are free to do so without fear. To help make this clear, this amendment also requires public schools receiving state funds to prominently display the Bill of Rights of the Constitution.
No one in America should ever feel any pressure or intimidation for expressing their religious beliefs. Freedom of Religion was one of the primary precepts on which this nation was founded. The Missouri House just took another step forward to ensure our freedom of religion is further protected from any infringement.
As thousands of hard-working Missourians face ongoing financial struggles and mounting debt resulting from the economic crisis, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill yesterday took to task representatives from debt settlement organizations that prey on consumers and often leave them with more debt despite promising to resolve their financial issues. In a Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing, McCaskill criticized debt settlement companies for taking advantage of worried consumers with misleading advertising and undocumented promises of 100% success rates.
“You are preying upon the fears of people. You’re making a lot of money and you’re delivering a substandard product. Many times you’re engaging in fraud to get the customers by promising them something that you know is not true,” McCaskill said. She continued “If you can prove what you say then you should just get to proving it.”
Numerous complaints and lawsuits have been filed against debt settlement companies for misrepresenting the services they offer and charging large fees for customers who are already deep in debt. Companies often charge substantial fees up-front, before they even begin seeking to reduce a customer’s debt, a practice which McCaskill said should be banned. Further, the companies frequently fail to actually reduce customers' debt at all. Additionally, the settlement companies are notoriously secret about their practices and documentation. Trade associations won’t even reveal which companies are members.
Currently, the Missouri Attorney General’s Consumer Bureau is embroiled in a lawsuit against Credit Solutions of America in St. Louis for misrepresenting the services that the company could provide. The Missouri Attorney General, along with numerous other Attorneys General and consumer protection groups nationwide, has repeatedly found that debt settlement companies are not forthcoming with documentation to substantiate claims that they have successfully helped customers.
“When people are in debt and worried [they] are more easily persuaded that someone can help them because they’re desperate for help…What’s hard for me to understand is how your association thinks you can stop the inevitable march of regulation, lawsuits, and enforcement actions, because I don’t think you can produce statistics that show you’re helping anyone,” McCaskill said.
The Worth County R-III Child Center, Little Tigers Preschool has completed their new project for our playground this month. In years past we have be using woodchips as a surface material on our playground. These woodchips have been replaced by Missouri recycled tires compressed into safety tiles for playground use by DuroMat. These safety mats will help with the safety and usability of the playground and will be more cost efficient. In doing this new surfacing we recycled 657 passenger tires. This playground was made possible by a grant funded through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources who we would like to give special thanks, along with all those who helped put it all together. Thank you.
Yesterday, the Senate passed legislation co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill to prevent Congress from getting a raise in 2011. The bill, introduced by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), prohibits the yearly Congressional cost-of-living adjustment pay raise that is automatically scheduled to take effect for 2011. Congress already passed legislation ensuring there would be no increase in 2010.
“Over 200,000 Missourians are out of work, and those who are employed aren’t getting a pay raise this year. It is certainly not the time for Congress to be giving itself a pay raise,” McCaskill said.
The bill passed yesterday unanimously and will go to the House of Representatives for consideration. Since arriving in Washington, McCaskill has worked to rein in federal spending and consistently voted against pay increases for members of Congress.
Forty-six million Americans suffer some form of arthritis, according to the National Arthritis Data Workgroup. Many aging farmers continue to farm well into their 70s, making them more affected by arthritis than most workers.
“Farm work is constant bending, twisting and lifting. Many farmers also work long hours under stress at times like planting and harvesting. That is why it is important for farm families to learn the psychological, emotional and physical impact of arthritis on their lives,” said Karen Funkenbusch, a University of Missouri Extension safety specialist and coordinator of the Missouri AgrAbility Project, which helps agricultural workers with disabilities adapt their homes and farms to allow them to continue working.
May is National Arthritis Month and spring is a good time for families with a member suffering from arthritis to keep in mind operational limitations imposed by chronic joint symptoms, Funkenbusch said.
“Reduced mobility and reaction time may result in injury for machine operators. Reduced endurance may also put farm workers at risk as they push their limits,” she said.
Methods to help control joint stress and pain can be as simple as wearing quality, non-slip footwear or using appropriate assistive aids.
Other ways farmers can reduce the risk of injury and strain while staying productive:
-Use the largest joint possible to complete a task.
-Maintain proper posture when sitting on a tractor for a long time.
-Avoid gripping and grasping for extended periods.
-Simplify tasks and pace the amount of working time throughout the day.
For more information about the Missouri AgrAbility Project, see www.agrability.missouri.edu or call 800-995-8503
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Energize Missouri Appliance Rebate Program continues in retail and installation contractor businesses
After reviewing the rebates reserved during the first day, it became apparent there was greater than anticipated demand for dishwashers and clothes washers. In an effort to address this demand, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has reallocated a number of rebates into the two categories. The total number of rebates increased by approximately 10 percent after the department completed this reallocation, although the total amount of funds for the overall program remains the same.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, more than 80 percent of the rebate funding remains for Missouri residents to take advantage of during phase one or phase two of the rebate program. The design of the two-phased approach provided a smooth, steady flow of rebates during the first phase and is expected to continue during phase two. Both phases overlap with the “Show-me Green” ENERGY STAR sales tax holiday to help residents maximize their savings. Consumers who wish to take advantage of the rebate program and the state sales tax holiday must purchase the ENERGY STAR appliances between April 19-25 in participating retail and installation contractor businesses.
Phase one of the Energize Missouri Appliance Rebate Program began April 19 allowing participating appliance retailers and installation contractors to reserve rebates on behalf of their customers purchasing ENERGY STAR appliances.
Phase two of the program begins at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, April 21. Consumers may continue to visit participating appliance retailers and installation contractors to reserve rebates or they may reserve rebates online or via a toll-free number before making their purchase. Limited numbers of rebates are reserved for phase two, and residents are more likely to get a reservation and a rebate when working with a participating retailer or contractor.
There are several important conditions and requirements in the Energize Missouri Appliance Rebate Program, and retailers and contractors can help residents navigate the program. For example, not all new appliances qualify for a rebate. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has targeted five appliance categories for the program including space heating, space cooling, water heaters, clothes washers and dishwashers. Also, the new ENERGY STAR appliance must replace an older appliance from the same category, and the old appliance must be properly recycled. Participating retailers and contractors will have information on qualifying categories and appliances, recycling services and recycling options readily available to consumers.
Energize Missouri Appliance Rebate Program, with its $5.6 million in funding, is part of a larger $300 million federal program aimed at energy conservation, energy efficiency and economic recovery funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Department of Natural Resources has designed its program to maximize eligibility for the estimated 53,000 rebates. To qualify for a rebate residents must:
· Be a Missouri resident, 18 years of age or older.
· Own the property where the appliance is being replaced - with the exception of clothes washers. Renters are eligible for clothes washer rebates.
· Limit the appliance purchases to one per qualified category per address.
· Limit the total rebate amount to $575 per address.
· Reserve the rebate and mail it along with all required support documentation, including proof of purchase and recycling, within 60 days of making a reservation.
More information is available at MissouriApplianceRebate.com and through a toll-free consumer information line at 877-541-4848. Visit local participating appliance retailer or installation contractor today!
During a meeting with the education leaders, the Governor noted that Missouri currently has more than 60 state tax credit programs. Over the past 10 years, the use of state tax credits has grown to $585 million a year – a jump of 86 percent. Redemptions of tax credits have continued to climb over the past two years, even as state revenues have slumped because of the economic downturn.
“Creating jobs and moving our economy forward requires a diverse set of tools, including strategic tax credits and incentives,” Gov. Nixon said. “But other programs and services, such as public education, are vital to economic development as well. To move our economy forward, Missouri must invest its limited resources in programs that will deliver the best possible return on investment for our taxpayers. That means we must bring greater accountability, responsibility and focus to our tax credit system to ensure that we are investing in incentives that are producing jobs and growth, while also protecting the funds we need to support elementary, secondary and higher education.”
The Governor met with about 70 public school teachers and leaders from public elementary and secondary schools, public community colleges and public four-year colleges and universities this morning. The group discussed the vital role public education plays in workforce development and economic growth, and highlighted the critical importance of continuing to invest in education.
“Tax credits can be a valuable tool to create jobs and grow our economy, but they must be weighed against their cost to our classrooms, our colleges and other vital state services,” Gov. Nixon said. “Together, Missouri’s education leaders and I call on the General Assembly to pass comprehensive tax credit reform this year to safeguard our continued investment in public education and to lay the foundation for economic growth for the 21st century.”
Education leaders echoed the Governor’s call for tax credit reform.
“As the state’s land-grant institution, the University of Missouri System plays a critical role both in preparing our workforce for the jobs of tomorrow, and in generating economic growth across the state,” said Gary Forsee, president of the four-campus University of Missouri System. “Continued investment in public higher education is critical, and we applaud the commitment of Gov. Nixon and the General Assembly to our institutions. We agree with the Governor that tax credit reform is needed to ensure that our limited tax dollars are invested in Missouri’s most urgent priorities.”
“Tax credits are important economic development tools, but those dollars are then unavailable for other vital purposes, including public higher education,” said Dr. Carolyn Mahoney, president of Lincoln University and president of the Council on Public Higher Education. “Our members share the Governor’s belief that public higher education must be one of the state’s highest priorities, and we would support a process that limits or otherwise critically examines the state tax dollars that are dedicated to tax credits. Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce, and we want to make sure we are doing everything possible to prepare students who will, in turn, move our state forward.”
“Missouri’s public community colleges are critical drivers of economic and workforce development,” said Dr. Marcia Pfeiffer, president of St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley and chair of the Missouri Community College Association Presidents/Chancellors Council. “We strive to work seamlessly with local businesses and industries to prepare our students to transition directly into employment in growing fields. We appreciate the importance of the strategic use of tax credits for job creation and economic growth, but we support Gov. Nixon’s call for reform to ensure we are using these dollars for the greatest benefit for Missouri.”
“Investing in elementary and secondary education is critical for Missouri’s continued economic growth,” said Paul Kinder, superintendent of the Blue Springs School District and president of the Missouri Association of School Administrators. “We applaud Gov. Nixon’s leadership in protecting our schools from the drastic cuts other states have seen. Refocusing the state’s tax credit system will ensure that Missouri is investing in the right priorities for the years to come.”
“Public schools are responsible for educating each student who walks through the door, whether those students are heading to college or directly to work,” said Dr. Jim Hinson, superintendent of the Independence School District. “Continued support for public education is vital, but excessive tax credits have the potential of endangering funding for our schools. We appreciate Gov. Nixon’s efforts to reform this system and ensure that state resources are focused on critical priorities, including public education.”
MU Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) estimates that wheat growers will receive $245 million of the $294 million to be paid on 12 major commodities during the 2009-2010 crop year.
Payments from the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) are an alternative risk management program, based on revenue, in the 2008 Farm Bill. To enroll in ACRE, growers must forgo some benefits in traditional farm programs of direct and countercyclical payments, said Peter Zimmel, MU-FAPRI economist.
The study of the current crop year shows participants drawing an average net benefit of $5.38 per base acre enrolled. That estimate will not be confirmed until the close of the current marketing year, Zimmel added.
The MU-FAPRI analysis shows enrolled producers gave up $118 million to receive protection from the crop-price downturn. In addition to forgoing all countercyclical payments, they lose 20 percent of direct payments under the old program. Also, loan rates are reduced by 30 percent. That lowers chances for Loan Deficiency Payments and reduces the amount producers can borrow if they use the marketing loan program.
“To benefit, a producer must show a revenue shortfall at the same time the state average revenue drops for that crop. Both the farm and the state actual revenue must fall below the farm and state benchmark revenue,” Zimmel said.
“Farmers received lower wheat prices that resulted from an increase in ending wheat stocks,” Zimmel said. “For two years, wheat production exceeded use. The resulting drop in wheat prices triggered payments to wheat producers enrolled in ACRE.”
Most other commodities did not see such large drops in price or yield.
“I see the ACRE program as a form of crop insurance,” Zimmel said. “The loss of part of the direct payment could be considered a premium on an insurance policy.”
To aid farmers making decisions to sign up this year, the MU economists updated their FAPRI ACRE Risk Management (FARM) tool. The program can be downloaded from the FAPRI website at www.fapri.missouri.edu.
Scott Gerlt, MU-FAPRI research associate, reprogrammed FARM for those who used the Excel spreadsheet last year to update their farm records. “If they have their spreadsheets from last year, all they have to do is click a button to move into the new program. They don’t have to re-enter yields and prices.”
The update contains the latest developments plus the MU-FAPRI baseline, which gives projected crop prices for coming years.
“We don’t say you should sign up,” Zimmel said. “But we do say you should at least look at that option.”
With volatile crop prices and uncertain yields, ACRE risk management may appeal to more producers this year.
“Not many people signed up last year,” Zimmel said. “There were a great many unanswerable questions and the process seemed complex to producers.”
Also, ACRE does not deliver payments until after the close of the marketing year. For corn and soybean producers, that will not be until October of the year after harvesting their crop. “That can cause cash-flow problems for some,” Zimmel said.
Last year, only 8 percent of the Farm Service Agency farm units enrolled. Those account for 13 percent of the U.S. base acres.
Producers who sign up obligate their farm to stay in the program through the end of the current Farm Bill in 2012. All commodities on a farm are covered. A farmer can’t enroll only one crop or part of a farm.
However, producers with more than one FSA farm unit can enroll each separately.
Sign-up for ACRE this year, available at local USDA Farm Service Agency offices, ends June 1. Although farmers can wait until the last day to enroll, they are urged to contact the FSA office before the deadline to make sure of their options.
Last year, more than 4,000 farmers downloaded the FAPRI FARM spreadsheet. Using the spreadsheet requires a computer running Microsoft Excel.
Because of similarities, farmers in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota and Ohio can use the FAPRI FARM analysis tool.
“If you have an objection to a nominee, you should tell the public you have that objection, and, frankly, you owe the public an explanation why,” McCaskill said. “We're here working for them. We're doing the people's business here. We're not doing some back room deal. We're doing the people's business.”
Watch video of McCaskill’s floor speech here.
The secrecy allows members to indefinitely block the Senate confirmation of government appointees without being held accountable or having to explain their concerns to the public. These nominees are non-controversial and were passed out of committee without opposition.
Following her speech, McCaskill proceeded to ask for agreement to vote on many of the nominees in question. She called up 17 nominees for a vote and Republicans objected repeatedly. McCaskill plans to return to the floor throughout the week to ask for a vote on the remaining 59 nominees who are being held in secret.
The list of nominees called up for a vote by McCaskill is below.
- Stuart Gordon Nash, of the District of Columbia, to be an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
Without objection, the nomination was confirmed.
- Warren F. Miller, Jr, of New Mexico, to be Director of the office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, Department of Energy.
- Julie A. Reiskin, of Colorado, to be Member of the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation.
- Gloria Valencia-Weber, of New Mexico, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation.
- Benjamin B. Tucker, of New York, to be Deputy Director for State, Local, and Tribal Affairs, Office of National Drug Control Policy.
- John H. Laub, of the District of Columbia, to be Director of the National Institute of Justice.
- Anthony R. Coscia, of New Jersey, to be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors.
- Albert DiClemente, of Delaware, to be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors.
- Mark R. Rosekind, of California, to be a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board.
- P. David, Lopez, of Arizona, to be General Counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
- Victoria A. Lipnic, of Virginia, to be a Member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
- Jill Long Thompson, of Indiana, to be a Member of the Farm Credit Administration Board.
- Eric L. Hirschhorn, of Maryland, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration.
- Steven L. Jacques, of Kansas, to be an Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
- Jim R. Esque, of New York, to be an Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services.
- Michael W. Punk, of Montana, to be a Deputy United States Trade Representative.
- Islam A. Siddiqui, of Virginia, to be Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Office of the United States Trade Representative.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is reminding outdoor cooks not to forget about grill fire safety as the peak months for grill fires arrive. People with gas grills should take extra precautions. In 2003-2006, gas-fueled grills were involved in 81 percent of reported home grill fires and were involved in 6,400 home fires, including structure and outside fires. The leading cause of gas grill fires was a leak or break in hoses.
Video and audio available.
“Nobody wants to see their backyard barbeque go up in flames,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications for NFPA. “There are simple measures that can be taken to avoid charring dinner and setting anything on fire.”
Although gas grills are used approximately one-and-a-half times more often than charcoal grills, they were involved in five times as many fires. Charcoal or other solid-fueled grills were involved in 1,300, or 16 percent, of home grill fires. The leading cause of these fires was something that could burn being located too close to the grill.
In 2007, approximately 9,600 people went to hospital emergency rooms because of thermal burns caused by grills. About one-third of the burns from gas grills happened while lighting the grill. Gasoline or lighter fluid was involved in roughly one-quarter of charcoal or wood grill burns. Children under five accounted for roughly one-quarter of thermal grill burns. Most of these burns occurred when the child bumped or touched the grill.
NFPA offers the following grill safety tips:
- Use propane and charcoal grills in outdoor areas only.
- Make sure the grill is located well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
- Keep children and pets away from the grill area: declare a three foot “kid-free zone” around the grill.
- Use long-handled grilling tools to give plenty of clearance from heat and flames.
- Remove grease or fat build up from the grills and in trays below the grill so it cannot ignite.
- Never leave the grill unattended.
- Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year by applying a light soap and water solution to the hose. If there is a propane leak, it will release bubbles.
- If you do find a leak and there is no flame, do the following:
- Turn off the gas tank and grill.
- If the leak stops, have the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
- If it does not stop, call the fire department.
- If you smell gas at any point while cooking, get away from the grill immediately and call the fire department.
- Use only equipment with the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.
- Never store propane gas tanks in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.
For more safety tips, videos, facts and figures, and audio clips, please visit http://www.nfpa.org/grilling.
NFPA has been a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. Visit NFPA’s Web site at http://www.nfpa.org.
“Edible landscaping uses attractive plants that also just happen to produce food,” said David Trinklein, University of Missouri Extension horticulturist.
Edible plants in the landscape can include Swiss chard, cherry tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, onions and most herbs.
“Containers filled with tomatoes or peppers can add to the decor of a patio or deck while at the same time providing fresh, tasty food,” Trinklein said. “Woody plants such as fruit trees can be planted instead of small flowering trees. Blueberries can take the place of shrubs and grapes can adorn an arbor or cover a trellis instead of vines.”
More ideas to consider:
--Incorporate plants such as lettuce, radish or cabbage into your flowerbeds and borders.
--Plant herbs along with flowers in a container.
--Plant gooseberries instead of barberry for an effective hedge.
--Train raspberries up a fence.
--Plant flowering cabbage in the fall as an alternative to mums.
--Design an edible flower garden using nasturtium, violas, borage and calendula.
You don’t necessarily need the large, sun-drenched spaces of traditional vegetable gardens, but certain environmental needs must be met. Most edible plants require about six to eight hours of sunshine each day along with good soil, the right nutrients and fertilizer. If soil is compacted and drains poorly, add organic matter on a yearly basis.
Edible landscaping tends to require more maintenance than traditional gardening or landscaping. This means paying additional attention to watering, fertilizing, pruning and pest management.
“It is important to remember that pesticides that can be used safely on ornamental plants might not be labeled for food crops,” Trinklein said. Always read the directions and never use a pesticide on edible landscape plants that is not labeled as safe to use on food crops.
“Edible landscapes represent a means of providing a greater return on a homeowner’s investment in the man-made environment by providing a source of safe, tasty and nutritious food while creating a pleasant environment,” he said.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
A year and a half after the country came perilously close to economic collapse, average Americans are sitting up and taking notice of the debate in
There is also broad agreement on the pri
Traditional banks didn’t bring about the financial crisis. Their mission is, as it has always been, to serve their local community and make credit available to consumers and small businesses. The bill before the Senate unfortunately contains provisions that would hinder their ability to do this effectively and to provide the credit the local economy so badly needs to get back on track.
Consider, for example, the proposal to create a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It sounds great in theory, and bankers strongly support improving consumer protections. But in practice, creating another new bureaucracy will produce more problems than it will solve by putting the government in the business of deciding what products are right for bank customers. Community banks could reasonably conclude that it is not worth offering checking accounts, savings programs, home equity loans or other products that are specifically designed for their local markets because they don’t have the bureau’s stamp of approval. This kind of invasive oversight undermines the essence and strength of community banks – namely, the relationships we have with our customers. How can we adhere to our mission if we can’t tailor products to meet the specific needs of our customers?
Then there is the issue of uneven enforcement of the rules. The new consumer rules would apply to both banks and non-banks, but enforcement against these non-banks, many of whom contributed greatly to the economic crisis, would be weak or nonexistent in many cases. Unlike the banking industry, a strong infrastructure for examination and enforcement of rules does not exist for non-banks. How does that protect consumers from mortgage brokers or other financial entities outside of the traditional banking industry that made a disproportionate share of toxic loans?
There are other concerns. Ending too-big-to-fail is critical, yet the Senate bill falls short in this regard. The bill also contains provisions that will make credit less available for consumers and small businesses, and it doesn’t provide adequate oversight of accounting rules that greatly worsened the crisis.
Bankers support financial reform, but it needs to be done well—and it especially needs to be done with an eye toward the impact on communities like ours. These issues are important, and vigorous debate should be encouraged. The consequences of getting reform wrong are too great to be treated lightly.
By the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee
With today being Equal Pay Day, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee would like to remind Congressman Roy Blunt of his vote last year to deny equal pay for equal work for Missourians regardless of gender. Last January, Blunt joined with many of his Republican colleagues in voting against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for Missourians to get the pay they deserve, regardless of their gender, race, or age. Despite Blunt’s attempts to derail this bill, the bill passed, and was signed into law. On Equal Pay Day, does Blunt stand by his vote to deny equal pay for equal work for Missourians, or would he vote differently today?
“On the day that Americans recognize the importance of equal pay for equal work, Missourians should remember that Roy Blunt voted against this commonsense legislation just last year,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee National Press Secretary Deirdre Murphy. “By opposing equal pay for women, Blunt gave Missourians more evidence that he is out of touch with the economic realities of his own state.”
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 passed both chambers of Congress on a bipartisan basis and was signed into law by President Obama on January 29, 2009. The bill restored the ability of workers to effectively seek legal redress for pay discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, age, or disability. The legislation amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to say that the 6 month statute of limitations on filing lawsuits for pay discrimination reset with each discriminatory paycheck. Based on the court case filed by Lilly Ledbetter against Goodyear, this legislation was critical, as in some circumstances, like Ms. Ledbetter’s, awareness of the pay disparity did not come to light until the previous statute of limitations had expired.
Although the legislation alters the existing requirement for a treating physician to meet with the woman to discuss the medical facts of a drug-induced or surgical abortion 24 hours before an abortion, the senate sub moves Missouri closer to making sure women receive information that will help them choose life for their unborn child.
We thank the legislators in both bodies who are working hard to pass legislation that protects women and their unborn children. We look forward to passage of the bill out of the Senate and the House.
AARP today launched a multi-faceted initiative to pass financial reforms necessary to safeguard the pocketbooks of Americans. The initiative includes targeted local TV, radio and print ads in states; grassroots engagement; national and local research; and social media outreach.
“We know now that older Americans lost billions of hard earned dollars due to the failure of an outdated and compromised financial regulatory system,” said Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President at AARP. “We strongly believe that any bill the Senate passes should protect the rights of consumers first and foremost.”
AARP is calling on the Senate to put consumers first, not the financial institutions that caused the economic crisis that hurt millions of older Americans. The ad campaign highlights the consequences of the financial industry’s reckless behavior, using a jingle with lyrics including:
“Oh big banks how you’ve used us
Mistreated and abused us
Mortgage lenders too
We gave you our trust
Then you almost went bust
Turned our taxes into bonuses too
Now you want to forget
We paid off your debt
You act like you’re free of blame
But your profits they grew
While you broke every rule
We’re tired of playing your game
Stop the fat cats from putting your money at risk – tell your senators to pass financial reform now.”
Recent AARP polling has shown that Democrats, Republicans and Independents age 50-plus overwhelmingly say they want reform. More than 9 in 10 people believe financial institutions should use plain language to describe their products, be transparent about fees on accounts, disclose the costs and benefits of all products they market and that consumers should be able to know more about the financial professionals they are consulting for advice.
“AARP is calling on Senators to pass a strong bill that includes, among other protections, a strong and independent consumer watchdog, rules that forbid the financial industry from selling products they know their customers can’t afford or don’t understand, and greater transparency in an industry that has historically operated behind closed doors,” said LeaMond.
To view the ad and learn more about the initiative visit:
action.aarp.org/yourmoney or watch the ad on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpX7cui-Fl4.
For more information about AARP’s financial reform surveys visit:
For more activity on financial reform, check out AARP on Twitter: @AARP and Facebook: facebook.com/aarp