Governor?s Conference Draws 500 to Crown Center
KANSAS CITY -- Mother Nature's actions last year kick-started discussions among Missouri farmers and government officials attending Saturday's sessions of the Governor's Conference on Agriculture.
The focus must be on saving lives and property while paying less attention to ecosystems, said Blake Hurst, moderator for a session on "Rain, River and Resources." But it's not just floodwaters from the Missouri River that are threatening farmers, according to Tom Waters, a farmer and president of the Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association.
"Agriculture is under attack," Mr. Waters said. "EPA dust regulations, new diesel engine emission rules, animal rights activists and child labor laws are all involved in the assault."
Land worth saving
From listening to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, flood control seems to have dropped out of their vocabulary, Mr. Waters said. Now it's all about flood plain management and flood risk reduction. Listen to what officials say about rural agricultural areas, and it seems to be about reducing federal responsibility.
"Remember that 100,000 acres can feed a million people for a year," Mr. Waters said. "And yet, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the benefit-cost ratio of river-bottom land is zero."
He added that when the corps builds sandbar habitat for endangered birds, it doesn't seem to look too closely at the cost.
Mr. Waters said a review of corps records suggests that it costs $23,000 for each bird that lives long enough to grow feathers and fly. If you look deeper, each fledgling bird weighs between 2 and 2.5 ounces, and that means the birds are worth $165,555 a pound -- more than six times Friday's value for gold.
River bottom land is the most varied soil and productive land, and is well worth protecting, said Richard Oswald, an Atchison County farmer and president of the Missouri Farmers Union. …