Legislature Begins Discussions on Better Promotion of Arkansas' $13 Billion Agriculture Industry

FEBRUARY 25, 2005 - Posted at 7:57 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Discussions began yesterday in the Legislature on competing bills aimed at better promoting Arkansas' $13 billion agriculture industry.

The Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee held a hearing on the two measures.  One would create an Arkansas Agriculture Department and the other would create a Division of Agricultural Promotion and Marketing within the state Plant Board.

The latter would serve as the umbrella agency for a variety of boards and commissions.

Only two other states, Alaska and Rhode Island, have no state agriculture department.  Backers of creating one in Arkansas say the state needs a central department to address changes in the industry.

The committee heard testimony yesterday but did not vote on the measure.  The committee will resume the hearing on Tuesday.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)