Stripped-down farm measure rolls through Missouri Legislature, heads to governor | Politics

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers approved a series of tax credits for the agriculture community Tuesday, but stripped the proposed law of a provision that could have benefited a major property developer.

The package, which has been a priority for farm lobby groups, had been stalled in the Legislature over a piece of the overall bill that would have given investors like Columbia developer Jeffrey E. Smith $25 million in tax credits for investing in rural businesses in the state.

Opponents wanted the rural tax credits out of the measure after a similar program in Georgia cost taxpayers more than $50 million.

The revamped legislation now includes provisions for tax credits for wood energy, investments in meat processing, enhancements for the ethanol and biodiesel industry and a loan program for family farms.

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The latest version also decreases the length of time for the tax credits from six years to two years, so the issue will return to the Legislature in 2024.

“There’s a lot of good stuff on this bill,” said Rep. Brad Pollitt, R-Sedalia, who sponsored the legislation.

“It is not a perfect bill. Is it what we wanted in the House? It is not what we wanted in the House,” said Rep. Don Rone, R-Caruthersville, who chairs the House Agriculture Committee.

But, he said the final version will be cheered by ag groups like the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association.

“We still need to support the bill even though it is not perfect,” said Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette.

Pollitt earlier said the costs added to the overall bill by the rural jobs tax credit program raised eyebrows among lawmakers.

In Georgia, a state audit found the rural investment program would take at least 72 years for a return on the investment, leading to charges that it is an expensive boondoggle that lines the pockets of developers.

Among the companies involved in the Georgia program is JES Holdings, led by Smith, who is a major player in the state’s low-income housing tax credit program. His firm also has offices in Georgia.

Former Gov. Eric Greitens has suggested the state’s low-income housing industry, which includes the banks, investors and lobbyists who benefit from the credits, conspired against him in retaliation for his 2017 move to kill the state tax credits, collectively worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Participation in the program, had it been approved, would have been limited to a narrow number of firms. For example, investors would have to had put at least $100 million in small communities across the country, including $30 million in Missouri.

The measure now heads to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.

The legislation is House Bill 1720.

Updated at 3:23 p.m. Tuesday, May 10.

Controversial rural tax credit program hits roadblock in the Missouri Capitol

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