JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — An interim Missouri legislative committee will be created to examine funding levels at the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA), specifically MDA’s Division of Plant Industries.

State Rep. Don Rone, R-Portageville, made the announcement while testifying Tuesday before the House Agriculture Policy Committee in Jefferson City.

Rone, who serves as the committee’s vice chairman, says the department is not receiving necessary funding for it to operate efficiently.

“Senator Munzlinger has put a resolution to the Senate. They’re going to form a committee to work on this through the summer,” Rone testifies.

State Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, chairs the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee.

Rone testifies that in 2010, Missouri lawmakers decided to fund MDA’s Division of Plant Industries with fees.

He says fees are not adequate enough to fund that division, which operates Missouri’s pesticide control and produce safety programs. Rone also notes dicamba investigations have impacted MDA’s budget.

Rone tells lawmakers MDA needs additional funding to do its job effectively.

“The state of Missouri today in our funding in the budget, their GR (general revenue) money that goes to the Department of Ag is $8.3 million. Arkansas’ is $17.2 (million),” says Rone.

Rone represents Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot and Scott Counties in the Missouri House. His district, which is located in southeast Missouri’s Bootheel, has been impacted by dicamba.

Despite agriculture being the state’s top industry, the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) budget is about $39.5 million.

Missouri’s proposed operating budget, which is now in the state Senate, is about $28 billion.

MDA released a 2017 report, which said agriculture is an $88 billion industry in Missouri, employing nearly 400,000 people statewide.

Meantime, a key Democratic lawmaker who serves on the House Budget and House Ag Policy committees says tax cuts pushed by Republicans are a reason for MDA’s funding issues.

When State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, raised the issue during Tuesday’s hearing, House Agriculture Policy Committee Chairman Jay Houghton, R-Martinsburg, said Lavender was off-topic.

“I would like to do that (increase funding) for not just the Department of Ag, but secondary education, higher education, seniors, people with disabilities,” Lavender says.

“All right, hold on just a second. Please Representative Lavender,” Houghton responded.

“This has everything to do with general revenue,” says Lavender.

“Please. All right, I’ve had a long day already. Let’s try to stay focused on the bill we’ve got in front of us,” Houghton says.

“I think this actually focuses on the bill,” Lavender tells Houghton.

Lavender supports Rone’s call for additional funding for MDA.

So do several commodity groups. The Missouri Corn Growers Association, Missouri Soybean Association and the Missouri Farm Bureau testified briefly Tuesday.

Rone says each MDA division is losing money.

(Brian Hauswirth, Missourinet)