Thanking Arkansas’ Essential Agriculture Workers

October 9, 2020
Weekly Columns

Every year I take a few days to thank some of the many men and women who work in Arkansas agriculture. This year in particular highlighted how important agriculture is to the economy and our daily lives. Without farmers and ranchers continuing to run operations during COVID-19, we wouldn’t have had food on our shelves or meat in the freezer.

My first visits were with Roy Gene and George Anne Britt at their farm in Okolona, and Chris and Denise Sweat at their farm in McCaskill. Roy Gene's farm began in 1972 with 20 cows on 180 acres but has more than 1,000 acres today. Chris and Denise Sweat were the Hempstead County Farm Bureau Farm family winner, and they currently have about 300 head of cattle on 500 acres, in addition to sheep and rabbits. I also visited Maranatha Agriculture, just east of Arkadelphia. Owner Larry Ferguson operates a row crop farm with soybeans, corn and rice on several thousand acres. He's currently in the midst of cutting rice and took me around his fields to walk me through the farm's operations.

I then joined a natural resources policy class at University of Arkansas at Monticello, where we had a great discussion! The students are learning about major environmental regulations, the policies behind them and how they affect American agriculture. The Ashley County Farm Family of the Year also invited me to tour their farm, and Scott Reynolds talked with me about where he sells his chicken litter to be used for row crops. I concluded the day at Delek Renewables, where we planted a few trees and discussed biofuels.

Finally, I visited with the Agriculture and Poultry Division at Southern Arkansas University, where they took me on a tour of their new poultry facility and agriculture facility. They do fantastic research and innovation, allowing students to interact directly with poultry and observe different phases. Jennifer and Andy Hanson had me over to their poultry farm in Columbia County where I got to see some of these ideas in practice.

I’m so grateful for all the Arkansans who welcomed me to their farms and facilities this week and showed me around. I look forward to using what I learned from our conversations to craft federal policy that works for all Americans.