Arkansas Farm Bureau announced Monday its support for House Bill 1117, as written, a bill that would restructure the Arkansas Agriculture Department. The agricultural advocacy organization’s state board of directors met Friday to review policy positions affirmed by its members at its most recent state convention. HB 1117, part of a broader effort by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to streamline state government, has been referred to the House State Agencies Committee.
Arkansas Farm Bureau actively opposed reorganization attempts in the last legislative session because it was in conflict with Farm Bureau policy. Gov. Hutchinson met with Farm Bureau’s board after the session to understand its concerns. He also spoke at the organization’s mid-summer Officers & Leaders conference held in Springdale, outlining his intentions with the reorganization effort.
“We appreciate working with the Governor and his staff as they sought to understand Arkansas Farm Bureau’s position,” said Randy Veach, president of Arkansas Farm Bureau and a third-generation farmer from Manila (Mississippi County). “The legislation that has been proposed very clearly addresses many of the issues we raised during our extensive conversations with the governor and his staff.
“Our focus has always been to protect the interest of farmers and ranchers. Based on the legislation that has been proposed, HB 1117 would seem to meet the needs and expectations that we outlined. We are hopeful that the bill would not be amended or adjusted in a way that would conflict with our policy.”
Farm Bureau’s policy, adopted in late November at its annual convention, called for any transition, transformation, or consolidation of the Arkansas Agriculture Department (AAD) to include the following:
- No change in regulatory functions of the individual agencies within the AAD.
Special revenues collected within the individual agencies will be maintained and devoted to their intended purpose.
- The State Plant Board, Livestock & Poultry Commission and Forestry Commission will retain the exact same prescribed statutory powers, authorities, duties, and functions as they have currently.
- All employees will report to their department heads, and department heads will report to the Secretary of Agriculture. Individual agencies will implement the regulations of the independent boards and commissions.
- There will be no change from the current administration and appointment process of the promotion boards.
- The Secretary of the AAD be appointed as a permanent member of the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission.
- The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission will be placed under the AAD.
Each of those items are addressed in the bill, as filed by Rep. Andy Davis of Little Rock.
“As always, we want what is best for Arkansas agriculture, our state’s largest industry,” said Veach.
Arkansas Farm Bureau is a private advocacy organization of more than 192,000 families throughout the state working to improve farm and rural life.