Rural Missouri - October 2016 - 14

SAVE OUR SOIL, PROTECT OUR PARKS Westboro farmer says Parks, Soils & Water tax benefits everyone by Jim McCarty | jmccarty@ruralmissouri.coop I t's late in the farming season and thousands of acres of corn and soybeans stretch as far as the eye can see on the rolling hills and dales of northwest Missouri. Blake Hurst pulls an ear of corn from a dry stalk to gauge the progress of this year's crop. Then he moves to the soybeans and pulls a plant, his practiced eye examining each pod along its length. He's confident that this will be another bin buster when the harvest starts here on land his family has farmed for generations. But for this particular plot, it hasn't always been that way. Blake, a member of Atchison-Holt Electric Cooperative and president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, can remember when this patch of now-productive farmland was riddled with erosion. "The first year we farmed that land we anticipated it would be 20 or 30 percent less yield than the rest of our land," he recalls. "There was a lot of erosion. Blake Hurst is pleased with the yield from this field that was once an eroded mess. Funds from There were ditches. We repaired all of that. Now it will yield with the rest of it." Missouri's Parks, Soils and Water Sales Tax helped pay for terraces that now protect the soil. Blake credits Missouri's Parks, Soils and Water Sales Tax with helping his family farm continue to remain productive for this and future generations. The one-tenth-cent tax was created in 1984 when voters first approved a consti- likely to run off, clogging streams and reservoirs. Better land-use practices lead tutional amendment specifically to stop soil erosion and provide funding for to more wildlife. Lakes and streams that aren't subject to erosion provide more habitat for fish and other aquatic species. Missouri's state park system. More than 19.2 million people visited one of Missouri's 88 state parks and At the time, Missouri ranked second in the nation for soil erosion, losing an average of 10.75 tons per acre each year on cultivated cropland. The tax gener- historic sites in 2015, generating an economic impact of more than $1 billion. ates $90 million annually, with half going to soil and water conservation efforts The park funding helps support 14,500 jobs. Back home, Blake has used the cost-share program from the Soil and Water and the other half helping to fund Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites. As a result, the state has saved more than 177 million tons of soil from erod- Tax Fund to build terraces on the 6,000 acres farmed by the Hurst family. The ing into waterways. That is the highest rate of reduction for any state with more money is channeled through 114 locally controlled Soil and Water Conservation Districts, one located in each county. They in turn provide up to 75 percent of than 10 million acres of farmland. Missouri also has built and maintained a state park system that is the envy the cost for soil conservation practices such as terraces, buffer zones, sediment of the rest of the nation. Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites consistently basins, grazing systems and cover crops, with the landowner paying the other receives a 97-percent approval rating from guests, and ranks among the top 25 percent. "That cost share is really important," says Blake. "We have skin in the game, four park systems in the country. Best of all, there is no charge to enter a Misso we make sure the terraces are designed right. We aren't going to terrace souri park or historic site. "I just got back from Michigan, where we visited several state parks," Blake something that doesn't need it or put in a structure that doesn't need to be there." says. "Every time we would enter a state park there, even if it He points to the land where the Hurst family - his father, two brothers, was just for a picnic, it was $9. And here in Missouri it's free." four nephews and two sons-in-law - earn their living. Over the years, all The tax is the primary source of funding for Missouri State Westboro of the highly erodible land has been terraced to hold back water from Parks, providing 75 percent of the money used to build, mainthe strongest storms. tain and upgrade the system. No-till farm practices keep more nutrients in the soil. They rotate In his position as president of Missouri Farm Bureau, Blake is crops and make sure to farm with the contour of the land. This one of the most outspoken advocates of the tax. Every 10 years, focus on conservation has been a boon to the environment and voters are asked to renew the tax, and 2016 marks the fourth the bottom line. time it has come up for renewal. Missourians have shown strong "I like to tell the story of my grandfather," Blake says. "Probsupport for it over the years. Almost two-thirds voted in favor of ably the last farming he did was building terraces. That was the amendment in 1988 and 1996. In 2006, it passed by its highimportant to him. Grandpa would always say he wanted to leave est percentage, with 70.8 percent voting yes. "It has a 10-year sunset, and we think that is important because it sort of the land better than he found it. A lot of people say that, but he meant it. And concentrates everyone's mind on it," Blake says. "If the tax was permanent, we he lived it. We are all trying to do the same." He says this is a tax he can support for a number of reasons. "First off, it is might not be as careful as we are with spending the money and being accountthe only tax you get to approve every 10 years, so you have a voice. It benefits able to the taxpayers who support it." He says everyone benefits from the tax in some way. Farmers, of course, everyone in the state, whether it is because they visit parks, because they have benefit from increased productivity from land that retains soil fertility. And that clean drinking water or because of the increased economic activity because increased productivity ripples through Missouri's economy because agriculture farms are still productive and profitable. Also, it is administered at the local level by county committees that understand how the money is spent." is its largest industry. Missouri has nearly 100,000 family farms with 28 million acres of farmland. Agriculture is a $12-billion business, supporting nearFor more information on the 2016 Parks, Soils and Water Sales Tax renewly 300,000 Missouri jobs. Urban dwellers benefit from cleaner drinking water since soil now is less al, visit www.soilwaterparks.com. 14 RURAL MISSOURI | OCTOBER 2016 http://www.soilwaterparks.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - October 2016

Contents
Rural Missouri - October 2016 - Intro
Rural Missouri - October 2016 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - October 2016 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - October 2016 - Contents
Rural Missouri - October 2016 - 4
Rural Missouri - October 2016 - 5
Rural Missouri - October 2016 - 6
Rural Missouri - October 2016 - 7
Rural Missouri - October 2016 - 8
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Rural Missouri - October 2016 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - October 2016 - Cover4
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