JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Region 8 farmers left their fields and headed to Arkansas State University's campus on Monday.
Chairman of the Arkansas Rice Federation and Arkansas Rice Council Jeff Rutledge said a meeting took place no one in the agricultural industry would want to miss.
"This is our annual meeting of the Arkansas Rice Federation and Arkansas Rice Council with Arkansas rice farmers," Rutledge said. "We're the industry group in Arkansas that encompasses the entire industry of producers, miller, merchants. So, we're here today to talk about issues important to the industry and kind of let everybody know what's been going on and what we've been doing on behalf of all the industry in the state."
Rutledge said he just got back from a productive trip to Washington D.C.
"We're doing a lot on behalf of producers," Rutledge said. "We just got back last week from Washington D.C. with the USA Rice Federation and going up there and visiting with not only our own congressional delegation but with every member of the Senate and House Ag Committees because of the importance of the farm bill that's coming up and that being written right now. So, we were there advocating on behalf of the industry and talking about the importance of rice. Not only to Arkansas but to the US as well."
Rutledge said he wanted to let area farmers know what they're working on.
"As far as the state goes," Rutledge said. "We have been working with a lot of ag industry in the state. Not just price, but Farm Bureau and Ag Council. The Ag Department and Forestry Commission to address some of the smoke issues that have been prevalent in the last couple of years. I know especially in Jonesboro that's been a major issue. And that's something we're going to unveil today. The results of all that work."
Jonesboro rice farmer Dan Hosman said he's been farming for 21 years.
Hosman said he wanted to come to the meeting to network and learn from others.
"It's important as a producer that we support our industry," Hosman said. "Rice is a major part of our state's economy. It's great we get together. Especially, during a farm bill year like we are. To discuss issues that are relevant to our industry. Whether it's the farm bill or environmental concerns or marketing concerns. Anything where we can get together as an industry and talk about and get through some issues. Just network in general about what's going on across the state."
Hosman said he also attended the meeting for two very important issues, the farm bill and smoke issues.
"What's important right now is the farm bill," Hosman said. "Where we are in the process of pushing one through Congress and how that affects us as producers. Also, we're going through an issue right now with the smoke program. Where we're trying to educate our fellow producers, rice, corn and soybean growers. The concerns now is people who are further removed from the farm, they don't understand what we're doing when we're burning rice fields. So, even as a producer we need to educate each other on how to be a good neighbor. When to burn. Worry about the weather and all of us roll these deals out to where we know what's going on and be better educated on how we can help each other."
Rutledge said they've come up with a solution that they unveiled at the meeting concerning the smoke issues.
"We've developed a voluntary smoke management guidelines," Rutledge said. "In cooperation with what the Forestry Commission has been doing for several years. To try and address some of those issues and be better stewards of that tool that we have for Agronomic practices on our farms. It gives you a number to call in. An office that's already set up by the Forestry Commission. Telling you whether or not the conditions are right. Letting you know how much air shed capacity that is there to be able to burn in and to do it in a way that doesn't impact neighbors around us. That's something we'll talk about here in a little bit with a panel of several groups involved in that development."
Rutledge said next is the farm bill.
"Next nearby for the ag industry is the farm bill," Rutledge said. "That's something very important coming up that encompasses a wide range of issues. That affects us from our safety net program to crop insurance, conservation, and foreign market development. All those greatly impact us as producers and our farms and our economic longevity of those who support the rural communities that we live and work in."
Hosman said the agricultural industry is always changing.
That's why meetings like the one on Monday are so important.
"Technology is ever changing." Hosman said. "Year to year, month to month it changes. Our industry really relies on technology. The updating of all our software programs that we use on the farm now. So, that's relevant that we get here and meet with our vendors and the people setting up the trade shows to be up to date on all the major advances and changes that are coming. They help our bottom line and help the industry as a whole."
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