September 7, 2016 Edition

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Secretary of Agriculture
speaks to Chamber

Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward (left) visits with Frema Gipson, chair of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee, during a Chamber quarterly meeting on Aug. 31.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt

Gretchen Hunt

Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward shared good news and bad news regarding the state of the agriculture industry in Arkansas with attendees at the Aug. 31 Chamber of Commerce Quarterly meeting in Walnut Ridge.

He discussed that while in the area he was also meeting with farmers who were facing losses from flooding.

"We are trying to figure out how bad the damage is," he said. "We are cognizant of the fact that a lot of people were hit hard."

He stressed that people on the state and federal level are trying to find ways to help and emphasized the importance of agriculture to the state.

"Agriculture is our largest industry," he said. "Even in difficult times, we have a lot to be thankful for and proud of."

He told attendees that Arkansas is not really a big state when considering land size or population, but the agriculture industry has a $20 billion economic impact. He noted that the state is in the top 25 in the nation in more than 20 commodities.

"If there is something agriculture related, Arkansas probably does it and does it well," he said.

A relatively new department, the Arkansas Agriculture Department was established in 2005 to serve as an umbrella for the existing Arkansas Plant Board, Arkansas Forestry Commission and Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission.

He briefly discussed what each entity does and stressed the importance of the diversity of agriculture in the state.

"Because we are so diverse, there are so many issues and often all at the same time," he said. "That is also the most rewarding part. We can weather bad times more than most other areas."

In addition to a variety of agriculture ventures, Ward said the men and women who work on Arkansas farms help the state remain successful in the field of agriculture.

"We have some of the best farmers and ranchers in the world," he said.

He told attendees he was happy to be back at The Studio in Walnut Ridge, which happened to also be the location of his first event as secretary of agriculture, an FFA banquet.

Ward said the Department of Agriculture exists to serve the more than 40,000 farm families in the state.

"We exist for the industry," he said. "If you see something and think ‘this is broken and needs to be fixed' let us know. That is the input we need."

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