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.