Mississippi County Farm Bureau meets with legislators
Mississippi County Farm Bureau hosted a Legislative Affairs meeting at the Holiday Inn in Blytheville Wednesday morning welcoming State Representatives Charolette Wagner and Tommy Baker and newly elected State Senator David Burnett.
Mississippi County Farm Bureau President Benton Felts welcomed everyone and introduced Randy Reynolds, legislative affairs chairman.
The meeting was held to discuss Arkansas Farm Bureau priority issues with legislators. Reynolds introduced State Farm Bureau President Randy Veach of Lost Cane.
"The main reason we are here is to visit with our legislators, have some open discussion on issues we stand behind and I think we will leave here knowing more," Reynolds said. "Randy (Veach) does a great job for us in Arkansas and on the national level. I want him to explain how the Farm Bureau priority issues are determined."
Veach explained how Farm Bureau, a grassroots organization, works together throughout the counties developing the issues to go to the state. The proposed issues are reviewed and prioritized.
Veach commended State Farm Bureau representatives Mike Sullivan and Joe Christian for the work they do supporting agriculture.
He went on to explain the policy developing process starts at the county level with proposals sent to the state.
"Farm Bureau is a 220,000 family strong organization," Veach said. "It is the largest lobby group in state."
Veach also praised the work of Stanley Hill, state affairs representative.
"We look at lists from the counties at state level and some may be changed or moved around but we come up with priorities for the year," Veach said. "We are an agriculture advocate but we also look at other issues including education and health.
"Our nation in a financial crisis but Arkansas is not. Arkansas is one of three states not in financial crisis. We can attribute this to state legislatures and our Governor doing a good job. We know going into this session we will stand behind these issues. Agriculture is the largest industry in the state and if anything cripples agriculture, it will cripple the economy. We stand behind every policy we have. We will work toward all of them but these are the most pressing going into this session."
Veach said he had met with Gov. Beebe and discussed the priority list and got his input.
"The Governor has made it very clear he has a budget plan and he will stay within it," Veach said. "Our Governor has 22 years experience in state legislature and he knows how the process works."
Board member John Tipton discussed the protection of Agriculture Tax Exemptions; preserving the integrity, mission, resources and structure of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, and acquiring additional funding and support for the Discovery Farm program.
Rep. Baker expressed his appreciation to Farm Bureau and encouraged them to contact them.
"We depend on you to keep us informed," Baker said. "I can't run as representative anymore but I promise you while I am there I will do the best job I can do for the Northeast Arkansas families."
Mike Sullivan talked on Farm Bureau's stand on the continued funding for the Dairy Stabilization Program; Sales Tax Reduction/Exemption for Utilities used in agri facilities; and the support of the proper care of farm animals but opposing legislation that would unjustly restrict or jeopardize livestock and poultry production.
Rep. Wagner also expressed her appreciation to Farm Bureau for their input. She assured them she does keep up with emails and calls she receives on different topics.
"It is obvious Farm Bureau has put a lot of effort into this," Wagner said.
She said she is proud of Arkansas for the balanced budget.
"There will be a lot of new members this year and Randy and Stanley will have their work cut out for them educating the new members on some of these issues," she said.
Brandon Veach discussed Farm Bureau's support of the Initiative to Review State Water Plan and retaining the present structure of Commodity Checkoff programs.
"We want agriculture to have a seat at this table," Brandon Veach said. "When you restrict our water you restrict our ability to make a living."
Sen. Burnett said he is aware of the importance of agriculture in the state.
"In principal I can support all eight issues," he said. "Water is a huge issue to our neighbors going west. Arkansas is fortunate to have an abundance of water. We have water to spare. I don't know of any bill pending but I will keep my eyes open."
Burnett said he too wanted the input of the people.
"I need to know what the people from Poinsett and Mississippi Counties want," he said. "I'll champion for you. I am here to represent the citizens."
Mark Bryles, Mississippi County Farm Bureau Federation manager, thanked everyone for their attendance.