Governor Hutchinson Searches for Answers

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

CLAY COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson left the state Capitol for Region 8.

Governor Hutchinson is on a fact-finding mission for the next two days.

He stopped at farms throughout the area to learn what people are facing.

"It's just so important for me as Governor to get out and listen," Governor Hutchinson said. "I want to listen to the farmers. I'm spending two days going to seven different counties in farm shops and listening to farmers about the flooding concerns, about issues relating to dicamba. About how the Department of Agriculture is working at our foreign markets and opening those up. But it's also to be able to report to them on some of the things that we have done. It's been an incredible exchange."

Farmer Jerry Turner hosted one of the Governor's stops on his land in Clay County.

Turner has a little over 5,000 acres of land where he grows corn, soybeans and rice.

He said he was pleased to learn of the Governor's plan to talk with them one on one.

"I think it's good that the Governor will get out and into the country," Turner said. "Talk with the people and talk about their problems. The folks I've talked to, we think it's good."

One of the issues brought up was the problems farmers are still facing after the flooding that happened earlier this year.

"The flooding issues are such a dire concern," Hutchinson said. "Because we've had flooding problems. But the worry is about the future and what we're doing to mitigate and try to reduce the potential of such extraordinary flooding this year which was really hard on our farmers."

Turner was one of the farmers who dealt with flooding issues.

"We're right here close to the hills," Turner said. "We get the water from the river and it just cut here on a Sunday afternoon. We moved our equipment out of the shed and it was dry and the next morning it was like 20 inches of water inside the shed. That's how fast it came up. And it actually got under my house. It did not get in it. I've been here all of my life and it was at least a foot deeper than it's ever been in my life."

Turner had to replace some of his crops.

"We've had to replant some rice," Turner said. "And do some swap on corn and it did damage to the roads and stuff that we've had to work on in the fields. But we were very fortunate compared to some folks."

Governor Hutchinson said they're working on a plan to reduce future flooding.

"I'm delighted there's a partnership with the core," Hutchinson said. "That are doing a study on what we can do to mitigate and to reduce the flooding potentials in the future along the Black River. So, that was a good discussion with the mayor of Pocahontas and the county judge there. Here, there was a suggestion that we actually have a commission that's formalized to try and work with the different levy districts, the core about reducing the flooding potentials in the future. We have a more comprehensive view of that."

Another topic brought up was dicamba.

"Obviously, dicamba has been a serious point of discussion," Hutchinson said. "We were able to talk about the dicamba task force which is made up of farmers in Northeast Arkansas. Representatives of seed associations and other farmers that will be a part of this looking to that technology in the future. How we can balance protection, but also be able to utilize technology that is necessary for our crops."

Secretary of Agriculture for the State of Arkansas, Wes Ward, said they've created a group to tackle dicamba issues.

"Our current update is there is a Dicamba Task Force," Ward said. "We announced it this week. And the purpose of that task force is to get together and try to figure out what happened. What the problems are and find long term solutions for the future. And basically, we know farmers are under a deadline. They're getting ready for next year, the planting season. We want to provide that certainty of what that's going to look like as soon as we can. So, that's what we're working towards for the dicamba issue."

There are 19 people on the Dicamba Task Force that represent a broad specter of agriculture.

Ward said members are farmers, product manufacture advisers and even Division of Agriculture Wheat Scientists are on the task force.

Governor Hutchinson said he wants farmers to know they're working on solutions.

"I want farmers to know we're listening," Hutchinson said. "We're looking at the flooding issues. We're looking at dicamba and the task force is looking at that for the future. They should know they can follow up with this. If they have additional comments they can write the Governor's office or our Secretary of Agriculture, Wes Ward. We want to hear from them. These are problems we all face. The good news is we've worked hard to open up foreign markets for our commodities here and there's great opportunity with the China market that's been opened up very recently for rice. And no one will sell rice better than Arkansas. So, that's an opportunity and good news part of the story."

Governor Hutchinson said he hopes to have answers soon.

"I hope to follow up with some concrete responses from my different agency directors," Hutchinson said. "Secondly, I hope there's a greater confidence among the agricultural community that we're there with them. We want to have their back. We understand the risk that they take and when we can be supportive, provide a solution or mitigate the damage we want to be able to do that. The partnership that we have in Arkansas, I want to be able to express to them that agriculture is our number one industry in Arkansas and that I recognize that and we want to make sure we keep it that way."

The Governor's "Turnrow Tour" of stops include Clay, Cross, Lee, Lonoke, Mississippi and Randolph Counties.

The Dicamba Task Force's first meeting is August 17th.

Click here to connect with the Governor's office.

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