News & Media
The good news I announced at the Arkansas Farm Bureau’s annual convention this week comes after a difficult twelve months for Arkansas farmers.
I am going to share my news again today. I hope that it will encourage our farmers. Many endured a soggy harvest in 2018 and an even wetter spring. In some places, floodwaters washed out hundreds of acres of fields – planted and unplanted. Statewide, the weather forced farmers to leave more than a million acres unplanted.
As if that wasn’t enough to keep farmers awake at night, the international trade wars created even more uncertainty.
But in my travels across Arkansas, I have seen that our farmers are equal to the obstacles. That spirit was evident in the optimism I observed Wednesday when I spoke to the farmers and ranchers at the annual meeting of the Farm Bureau.
Whatever the challenges, our farmers and their families know they have a reliable partner in the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. In a state where the Number 1 industry is agriculture and half of our residents consider themselves rural, we can’t overstate the value of ag research and the important service provided by our extension offices.
Farm families aren’t the only Arkansans who benefit from the skills and knowledge of the hundreds of experts who work all over the state. If you like peaches, strawberries, or blackberries, you’ve probably eaten a variety that scientists developed at one of the university’s research stations. Of course, they also support our poultry growers, our ranchers, and our row-crop farmers. Employees of the county extension service teach a variety of life-skill courses. The division’s scientists know when and where to use pesticides and herbicides; they are looking for ways to reduce the use of hormones and antibiotics in animal feed. The division’s 4-H program helps to ensure we’ll have young people stepping up to farm for years to come.
The Division touches almost every aspect of life – in our rural areas as well as in our cities. The expense of our infrastructure in agriculture with such a broad assignment is immense. The leadership of the Division of Agriculture constantly strives to increase efficiency while guarding the integrity of the mission.
This last year, we increased funding for the Division of Agriculture by $3 million. But this was not a permanent solution.
I am pleased to announce this week that in my proposed budget for 2021, I will ask the General Assembly to make this $3 million permanent. This is an investment for all of Arkansas.
I am honored to have the opportunity to participate in shoring up the Division of Agriculture. I grew up on a small farm in Gravette. My dad loved the land and was a careful steward. He was quick to help our neighbors. He taught us by example that we could work our way through the challenges of raising crops and animals.
But sometimes the challenges overwhelm us. That’s when we most clearly see the value of the University of Arkansas’s Division of Agriculture. The investment in ag research and service will benefit all of us.