JONESBORO, AR -- The Arkansas Rice Council and Arkansas Rice Farmers held their annual meeting and trade show yesterday here at the First National Bank Arena. During the program, USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward spoke about USA Rice efforts on behalf of the industry, keynote speaker Governor Asa Hutchinson spoke about his support and plans for Arkansas agriculture, and a panel discussed agricultural crop burning.
Ward’s presentation outlined USA Rice promotion efforts on behalf of U.S.-grown rice and included Lonsdale native Jessa Goodeaux’s award-winning National Rice Month scholarship video, as well as a clip from Sara’s Weeknight Meals, a cooking show featuring TV Chef Sara Moulton and an episode filmed in Arkansas that featured rice farmer Eric Vaught and his family from Hickory Ridge.
Ward also showcased the organization’s legislative advocacy efforts as she reported on last week’s Government Affairs Conference that brought USA Rice members representing all segments of the industry together with every member of Congress who sits on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees as well as administration officials to discuss the upcoming Farm Bill, trade, and other regulatory issues.
During his speech Governor Hutchinson stated, "Arkansas exports over 40 percent of our rice to Mexico and Canada. The President understands the importance of these markets and I will continue to reinforce the significance of these markets and all international markets to our state's agriculture industry."
Arkansas Agriculture Department officials including Secretary Wes Ward, Communications Director Adriane Barnes, County Forester Bryan Aday, and Arkansas Rice Federation Chairman Jeff Rutledge participated in a panel talking about the recently adopted voluntary smoke management guidelines. A task force was formed last fall to revise a model already in place by the Arkansas Prescribed Fire Council's for forest landowners, and private, state, and federal forestry agencies, and companies. The group developed a reporting process to the Arkansas Agriculture Department Dispatch Center as part of voluntary smoke management guidelines and discussed potential regulations imposed on farmers after next year's regular session if the guidelines are not voluntarily adopted.
"Field burning is part of a complete crop management strategy and our growers want to ensure the continued quality of the airshed their families and neighbors breathe,” said Rutledge. “Our discussions here helped increase awareness and education among the industry regarding voluntary smoke management guidelines."
Farmers are encouraged to call (800) 830-8015 before burning next season.
"This annual event is an important opportunity for rice farmers to gather and discuss timely issues and ways we can work together as an industry as we plan for the next growing season," said Rutledge.