Feb 10, 2021
LITTLE ROCK, AR -- The Arkansas Rice Farmers and Arkansas Rice Council held their annual meeting on Monday via virtual platform with more than 100 attendees.
The first speaker, USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward, gave an update on the organization’s activities throughout 2020 and policy priorities for 2021. Despite challenges and changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, USA Rice maintained a full schedule of advocacy for the U.S. industry, in addition to conducting four successful international webinars and launching a new podcast, The Rice Stuff, with episodes airing twice monthly. Ward also gave a snapshot of new high-ranking Biden Administration officials in key agencies and reported on meetings her staff has had with the Biden transition team and cabinet nominees.
Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward delivered a state briefing that included discussion of voluntary smoke management, Arkansas’s CFAP activity to date, state irrigation projects, and an update on the Abandoned Pesticide Program.
Providing an overview on national affairs and activities was U.S. Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Senator John Boozman who discussed trade, the Biden Administration’s focus on climate, and Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) III. Boozman reported that CFAP legislation was passed last year and therefore those funds will be available to producers for that purpose and cannot be used for other programs. Row crop producers will be eligible for $20 per acre payments; however, signups are on hold until Tom Vilsack, Biden’s nominee for secretary of agriculture, is confirmed and sworn in.
Arkansas Senate Ag Committee Chair Ronald Caldwell and House Ag Committee Chair DeAnn Vaught gave updates on pending state legislation. Vaught said the process of getting items on the legislative agenda is slower this year due to COVID-19.
Finally, Arkansas Rice Council President Dow Brantley of England talked about the state checkoff programs and the nearly $20,000 worth of scholarships distributed to Arkansas students made possible through the sale of the Rice Council specialty license plates. He reported that the meeting’s presenting sponsor, Greenway Equipment, was in its third year of a successful fundraising campaign to benefit the Arkansas Foodbank, the Foodbank of NEA, and the Southeast Missouri Foodbank.