by Valerie Verkamp
The state parks, soil, and water sales tax, known as Amendment No. 1, is up for renewal at next Tuesday’s general election.
Advocates of the tax say over the past three decades, funds generated from the one-tenth of one percent sales tax have helped remedy a statewide soil erosion problem.
“When the 1/10-cent parks and soils sales tax was first approved by voters in 1984, Missouri had the second worst soil erosion problem in the country,” said Estil Fretwell, director of Missouri Farm Bureau. “Our state was losing over 10 tons of topsoil per acre annually, equivalent to one inch of topsoil off each acre every 15 years.”
Now that Missouri has the means to support leading soil conservation efforts, farmers have taken control of their soil and water resources to prevent erosion, safeguarding food security, officials say.
“In the last 32 years, soil erosion has been cut in half by farmers implementing more than 229,000 soil and water conservation practices on their farms through a cost share program,” said Fretwell. “At least 179 million tons of soil have been saved from erosion and our state’s waters have been kept cleaner. But soil still erodes at the rate of about five tons per acre. Conservation practices could still be applied to much of Missouri’s farmland and existing structures need to be maintained.”
In addition to healthy soil, the tax has also ensured that natural resources inside state parks are protected for generations to come.
“In 1984, Missouri’s state park system was experiencing a funding crisis. Federal funding was drying up, resulting in the state parks receiving half of the funding they had been budgeted in the late 70’s,” said Fretwell.
Funds from the parks, soil, and water sales tax have made all the difference.
“Seventy-five percent of the state parks’ budget comes from Amendment No. 1 funding,” said Fretwell. “Today, we have one of the finest park systems in the nation that attracts 19 million visitors at Missouri’s 88 state parks and historic sites. Furthermore, admission to Missouri’s state parks remain free to the public.”
The tax generates about $90 million a year for soil and water conservation, as well as the day-to-day operations at state parks. Voters have reapproved the one-tenth cent sales tax three times since 1984. The measure has passed over-whelmingly with an average of 68.69 percent of the vote in those three elections.
Citizens Committee for Soil, Water and State Parks has raised about $120,000. The campaign has spent about half of those funds in support of Amendment 1.