House bill giving ‘Missouri Bourbon’ meaning becomes law

Now, when the words “Missouri Bourbon” appear on a bottle, it will mean something.

Representative Jeff Porter (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

A House bill that became law in August requires that products labeled “Missouri Bourbon” or “Missouri Bourbon Whiskey” be produced in this state, using Missouri oak barrels.  After January 1 it will also have to have been made with Missouri-grown corn.

The proposal was brought forward by Montgomery City Republican Jeff Porter.  He said those who make bourbon in this state wanted an official acknowledgement that it was truly made here.

“It’s very important for agri-tourism, I think it’s something that will be very, economy-wise, very important for what the governor’s trying to do to promote Missouri, and … I think it’s a very smooth bill for me to carry,” said Porter.

Gary Hinegardner with Wood Hat Spirits in New Florence said the origin of bourbon is important to people who buy it.

“The customer today is more astute.  They want to know more about it and they don’t want to be misled, so we tried to put as much in the Missouri bourbon bill to really explain what was going on – let people know that this is not made in Indiana in a Missouri barrel, shipped back to Missouri, put in a bottle and called Missouri bourbon,” said Hinegardner.

Former representative Don Gosen with Copper Mule Distillery said the label will tell buyers that they are getting a product that doesn’t cut corners.

“That they are getting the best barrels in the world, without question … even the French buy a lot of their wine barrels made with Missouri oak, so they’re getting the best barrel, they’re getting some of the best corn grown in the world, so they know that the product is being made with the best raw materials,” said Gosen.  “I don’t think a Kentucky Bourbon means as much as a Missouri Bourbon just because ours defines the raw materials so well.  The federal law defines more of the process but the Missouri Bourbon defines the raw materials.”

Porter said there is a growing bourbon industry in Missouri that supports an international market, and having a legal definition for the “Missouri Bourbon” label will support it.

“With those input costs beings so … easily supplied for by our corn and our white oak barrels to make the product, I just feel like there’s a lot more demand than I realized,” said Porter.  “It’s just an increasing demand for our bourbon, and also to compete with Kentucky, our neighbor state, with the same product.”

This language was included in House Bill 266, which also has provisions to designate July 7 as “Sliced Bread Day,” and May 26 as the “Battle of St. Louis Memorial Day.”

It was signed into law by Governor Mike Parson on July 11.

New law will affect school start dates beginning next year

Some schools will be starting classes later under a bill signed into law last month by Governor Mike Parson (R).

Representative Jeff Knight (photo by Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Missouri law has allowed school districts to begin classes up to ten days before the first Monday in September, but an earlier start date could be set if a district’s board approves it in a public meeting.  A provision in House Bill 604 repeals that provision, and allows districts to set start dates no earlier than 14 days before the first Monday in September.

The provision was proposed by Lebanon Republican Jeff Knight, who said earlier start dates hurt two of the state’s top industries:  tourism and agriculture.

“The tourism dollars that are lost in August because these schools start earlier and earlier and earlier was becoming significant,” said Knight.  “There was some opposition from a lot of school groups talking about local control, but at the same time, we need those revenues to help fund schools.”

Knight said at least one study found a 30-percent decrease in July and August lodging tax collections at the Lake of the Ozarks over the last decade.  He compared that to changes in school start dates and saw that in that time, many districts that had been starting after Labor Day ten years ago were now starting around the second week of August.

“Big Surf water park testified during the committee that they actually closed the Big Surf water park last year August 13.  It wasn’t because people quit coming to Big Surf, it was more that all of their workers and employees were going back to school,” said Knight.

Knight said agriculture is also affected as students who would be working on farms are pulled away for classes during potential harvest periods.

“There are still people in our area, with the drought earlier last year and the rain situation of early this year, there’s still people cutting hay right now,” said Knight.

Knight said what can’t be measured in dollar amounts or percentages are the family vacations that might be altered by earlier start dates, and the memories and experiences families could be having together by being allowed more time in the summer months.  He said for many families, taking vacation in the spring simply isn’t as appealing.

“[School districts who opposed the change] would argue that we get out in the middle of May and you can make up for tourism in that, and my response was, ‘Have you ever jumped in the lakes or the rivers in the middle of May?’  They’re extremely cold … where in August, it’s still extremely hot.”

Knight, who is a former educator, said extending the start date cutoff from 10 to 14 days means districts can still start reasonably early.

“Ten days before the first Monday is a Friday.  Well, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to start school on a Friday.  14 days means you can start on a Monday, but you still gain, in some years, an extra weekend, and in some years, depending on how the holiday falls, two weekends,” said Knight.

The provision of HB 604 regarding schools’ start date doesn’t affect districts until the start of the 2020-21 school year.

Missouri House proposes bigger fines for illegally applying herbicides, after Bootheel farmers’ losses

The state House has proposed tougher penalties for farmers who intentionally misapply herbicides.  Such applications have cost some farmers crops and the money invested in them, as highlighted by incidents in Southeast Missouri last year.

Representative Don Rone said fines had to be great enough to hurt some farmers' bottom line before they would stop illegal application of herbicides.  (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Don Rone said fines had to be great enough to hurt some farmers’ bottom line before they would stop illegal application of herbicides. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The University of Missouri said 150 or more farmers lost an average of 35-percent of their crops when neighboring operations illegally used an outdated dicamba product.  When that product spread onto nearby fields planted with seeds not resistant to dicamba, they were damaged.

Farmers can now be fined $1,000 for applying herbicide to a crop for which it is not labeled.  House Bill 662 would let the Department of Agriculture fine a farmer up to $1,000 for every acre herbicide is applied to, off-label.  The fine could be doubled for repeat violators.

The bill is sponsored by Portageville Republican Don Rone, who said the current, flat $1,000 fine is not enough to discourage some farmers from using products they think will better serve them.

“What this does is just basically give the state the ability go after the people that misuse herbicides in the state,” said Rone.

The money collected in fines would go to the school district local to the affected fields.  Rone explained the state’s statutes prevent it from giving that money to farmers who suffered damage.

“The state cannot make farmers whole.  They can issue fines but they can’t make the farmer whole,” said Rone.  “That takes the action of a court, or in the old days when I first started farming, if I hurt you, I’d come to you and say, ‘Gentleman how much do you think that I hurt you?’ and I’d write you a check.”

The House voted to add an emergency clause to the bill, which would make it effective immediately upon being signed into law by the governor.  Rone hopes the bill can clear the Senate and be signed into law by mid-March so that it will be in effect for the new planting season.

Earlier stories:

House Asked to consider tougher penalties for illegal herbicide use that cost farmers crops

Lawmaker plans to propose tougher penalties for illegal use of herbicides after Bootheel farmers’ losses

House committee hearing to focus on farmers’ losses due to illegal use of herbicide

House asked to consider tougher penalties for illegal herbicide use that cost farmers crops

The House is considering a bill meant to stop illegal herbicide use that in 2016 cost 150 or more farmers part of their crops.

Representative Don Rone (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Don Rone (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Kevin Bradley with the University of Missouri told the House Committee on Agriculture Policy those farmers lost an average of 35-percent of their crops, when neighboring farmers used an outdated dicamba product.  Wind and temperature changes caused that product to spread onto nearby fields.  Because the product was drifting onto fields not planted with seeds resistant to it, those crops were damaged.

Bradley said some farmers did not want to answer its questions, so more than 150 might have been impacted.

Portageville Republican Don Rone has sponsored House Bill 662, which would fine a farmer a civil penalty of $1,000 for every acre on which a product is spread illegally.  The current fine is a flat $1,000, which Rone says is not enough.

“I think $1,000 an acre is a substantial deterrent to a grower to misuse a compound,” Rone told the committee.

That per-acre fine would be doubled for farmers who repeatedly violate the new law.  The money collected in fines would go to the local school district.

The bill would also give the Department of Agriculture additional powers to investigate claims of illegal uses.  Farmers penalized for illegal use would be liable to the Department for its expenses and for personal property affected.

It would also require the makers of dicamba or other volatile compounds to train those using them, and require those wishing to use them to complete that training before they can buy it.

Farmers who sustain losses would not receive compensation under the bill, and would still have to seek it by taking those responsible to court.

Rone’s bill includes an emergency clause, which would make it effective immediately upon being signed by the governor.  He said without that, the law would take effect in August; that’s too late to impact the 2017 planting season.

He wants to see it become law before legislators go on their spring break next month.

“If we can’t make this cross the finish line before break, there’s no use of even … it’s not going to affect much because it’s not going to have any bearing on what they can do and what they can’t do,” Rone said.

HB 662 has the support of the Missouri Soybean Association, the Missouri Corn Growers Association, and the Missouri Farm Bureau.  No one testified against it in the hearing.

The committee is anticipated to vote on Rone’s bill on Tuesday.