The Arkansas Rice Council and Arkansas Rice Farmers held their annual meeting and trade show at the First National Bank Arena in Jonesboro last week. In addition to keynote speaker Governor Asa Hutchinson, the event also highlighted agricultural crop burning.

"Arkansas exports over 40% of our rice to Mexico and Canada," said Governor Hutchinson. "The President understands the importance of these markets and I will continue to reinforce the significance of these markets and all international markets to our state's agriculture industry."

A task force comprised of stakeholders representing the Arkansas Rice Federation, Arkansas Soybean Association, Ag Council of Arkansas and the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation recently finalized a set of guidelines applicable to crop burning. A task force was formed last fall to revise a model already in place by the Arkansas Prescribed Fire Council's for forest landowners, and private, state, and federal forestry agencies and companies. This model was used as a template and made directly applicable to crop burning. Along with input from the Arkansas Agriculture Department, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, the group worked to develop a reporting process to the Arkansas Agriculture Department Dispatch Center as part of voluntary smoke management guidelines.

Arkansas Agriculture Department officials including Secretary Wes Ward, Communications Director Adriane Barnes, County Forester Bryan Aday and Arkansas Rice Federation Chairman Jeff Rutledge participated in a panel to discuss the recently adopted voluntary smoke management guidelines. The group also discussed potential regulations imposed on farmers after next year's regular session if the guidelines are not voluntarily adopted. The panel gave an overview of the process for farmers to call 1-800-830-8015 before burning next season. All agriculture stakeholders were encouraged to share the guidelines as found here.

"This annual event is an important opportunity for rice farmers to gather and discuss timely issues and ways we can work together as an industry as we plan for the next growing season," said Jeff Rutledge, Chairman of the Arkansas Rice Federation. "Field burning is part of a complete crop management strategy and our growers want to ensure the continued quality of the airshed their families and neighbors breathe. Today's event helped increase awareness and education among the industry regarding voluntary smoke management guidelines."
"Our industry has repeatedly shown a willingness to adopt voluntary guidelines or best management practices as opposed to being subject to additional government regulations.  Here our row crop industry is looking to the lessons that our forest landowners have learned in the past and we are all working together to find common sense solutions," Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward said previously regarding the task force. "This is a perfect example of how we can accomplish more together than apart."