Thursday, June 28, 2012

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
        LITTLE ROCK  –  Persistent drought throughout Arkansas means that much of the state will receive a disaster designation because of losses to livestock and crops.
        The governor has asked the federal Agriculture Department for disaster determinations in 13 counties.  When the designation is official the Farm Service Agency, a branch of the USDA, will make low-interest emergency loans available to farmers and ranchers.
        Agriculture officials at the state and federal level all anticipate that before the season is over, most if not all of Arkansas will receive a disaster declaration.  Their belief is based on long-range weather forecasts that predict little if any significant rainfall for the rest of the summer.
        These 13 counties are the ones for which the first set of disaster designations are in the works: Baxter, Carroll, Conway, Faulkner, Fulton, Grant, Izard, Marion, Perry, Pulaski, Saline, Searcy and Van Buren.
        It's important to remember that when those 13 counties receive a disaster declaration, farmers and ranchers in all counties that border them also will be eligible for emergency loans.
        In a related development, the federal Agriculture Secretary has determined that farmers in five Arkansas counties have suffered so many losses from armyworms that they merit a disaster declaration.  The five counties are Boone, Fulton, Izard, Madison and Sharp.
        The counties that border them are: Baxter, Benton, Carroll, Crawford, Franklin, Independence, Johnson, Lawrence, Marion, Newton,  Randolph, Searcy, Stone and Washington.
        Eligible farmers have eight months to apply for emergency loan help from the Farm Service Agency.
        The National Weather Service says that a third of the state is in extreme drought conditions, up from 1 percent last week.  Also, 87 percent of the state is suffering from severe drought or extreme drought.
        The Forestry Commission has asked county judges to prohibit fireworks during the July 4 holiday because of the risk of fire.  The commission considers the threat of wildfires as high in all 75 Arkansas counties.
        Never toss cigarettes from moving vehicles.  Don't park a motor vehicle in grass that is tall enough to touch the exhaust pipe. Sparks from hay baling equipment and lawn mowers can start a grass fire, which can swiftly spread to wooded areas.
Calhoun Is New State Agriculture Director
        Richard Bell, the first director of the Arkansas Agriculture Department, has stepped down after seven years heading the umbrella agency.
        The new director will be Butch Calhoun, who had been director of the state Rural Services Department.
        Before leading the Agriculture Department Bell had been president and CEO of Riceland Foods and also had worked on international marketing of American farm products at the USDA.
        Calhoun farmed for more than 30 years and currently rents out his farm.  He also ran a small trucking company that mainly hauled agricultural products.  Calhoun served for 11 years on the board of a local agricultural bank.
        Calhoun had been at Rural Services since 2007.  Before that he served five terms as county judge of Prairie County and was elected to four terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives.  He has been chairman of the Central Arkansas Solid Waste District and vice chairman of the Central Arkansas Planning and Development District.

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