Missouri Minute: Centene to sell Illinois unit; river watchers worry about spring flooding

Good morning, MBA readers,

Farmers have set a record this year, although it’s not one they will be hoping to break. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has paid out more than $4.2 billion to farmers who couldn’t plant crops in 2019 — a figure driven largely by heavy rains and flooding across the Midwest. Missouri was among the states hit hardest by that wet weather, ranking fourth by number of acres that were not able to be planted. More troubling still: Observers are pointing to signs that the state’s two biggest rivers could overflow their banks again in 2020. Start your week by reading up on that story and the rest of the state’s top business news.

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Ag official: Missouri farmers not optimistic about end to trade war
Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said the farmers he is talking to are not optimistic that the U.S. and China will resolve their trade disputes soon, as farmers in Missouri get ready for another round of federal tariff aid. Most farmers in the state will get $25 to $45 per acre, while southern Missouri farmers will get a little less. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Centene to divest Illinois unit
Clayton-based health insurer Centene said it will sell its Illinois unit to CVS Health, bringing Centene’s planned $15.3 billion acquisition of WellCare one step closer to completion. (Reuters)

Branson duck boat operator reaches settlements in all but one of lawsuits
A federal judge said settlements have been reached in 32 of 33 claims brought against Ripley Entertainment, which operated the vessel that sank on Table Rock Lake in 2018, killing 17 people. The dollar amounts of the settlements have not been released. (Springfield News-Leader)

River watchers worry about spring flooding
Saturated soil in northern states and long-range forecasts of a wet winter are stoking concerns of high water levels along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers next spring after historic flooding in parts of the Midwest this year. Portions of the Missouri River are still above flood stage at a time when river levels are usually lower. (Associated Press)

State set to release industrial hemp production applications
The Missouri Department of Agriculture is scheduled to make applications for its Industrial Hemp Program available Monday. Before permits can be issued, the U.S. Department of Agriculture must approve the state’s management plan. (Missourinet)

Mental health care dominates Missouri’s growing telemedicine field
Patient visits via telephone or video conferencing in Missouri have grown tenfold since 2010 to nearly 50,000 visits in 2017, according to the Missouri Telehealth Network. Mental and behavioral health accounted for 65% of such visits in 2016. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Say that again

“I didn’t think it had the kind of ecosystem I needed. In terms of creative vision and passion, I never thought St. Louis was going to be that kind of place. I thought St. Louis was just a big-company town.”

That’s what Fady Hawatmeh thought of his hometown when he left in 2012, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Now, Hawatmeh is moving back home with a company of his own, and has a profoundly different impression of the city’s startup community. He said he found investors in St. Louis who are more supportive than the venture capitalists he encountered in Chicago. Last month, Hawatmeh’s machine learning startup Clockwork.ai was named one of 20 winners of the Arch Grants competition, which offers $50,000 to entrepreneurs who are willing to relocate to St. Louis. Clockwork has since moved its nine-person team to the Nebula coworking space in south St. Louis.

Go figure

$4.24 billion

That’s the record amount that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has paid out in claims for farmers who couldn’t plant this year due to extreme weather and flooding, St. Louis Public Radio reports. Farmers have submitted prevented planting claims for 11 million acres of corn and 4 million acres of soybeans after heavy rains and floods ravaged farmland across the Midwest earlier this year. USDA Risk Management Agency administrator Martin Barbie said it’s the most claims the agency has ever seen.

Hello, my name is

Engel & Völkers

This New York-based luxury real estate brand opened a Kansas City office last week, becoming the second company of its kind of set up shop in the metro area in the last six months, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. Angie Ripley, who previously worked for RE/MAX Elite Realtors in Lee’s Summit, was tapped to lead to new branch. Engel & Völkers CEO Anthony Hitt said it’s “an exciting time for real estate in this market,” citing a number of revitalization efforts around downtown and elsewhere in Kansas City. The company already has about 40 properties on the market in Kansas City. Its arrival trails Sotheby’s International Realty, which opened its Kansas City office back in August.

It’s been a pleasure doing business with you this morning.


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