Farmers question Governor’s statement of support
JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he is committed to helping farmers in a statement on Monday, Aug. 8, but some are beginning to question his words.
Two letters were placed on the governor’s desk from the Arkansas Cattleman’s Association.
A statement to Region 8 News from the governor’s office said the first letter was received on Friday, July 15, requesting the authorization to establish an Arkansas Emergency Feed Assistance Transportation Program.
The letter went on to ask Gov. Hutchinson and the state legislature to approve $3.5 million from the $1.6 billion revenue surplus to fund the program.
The AEFAT program would cover transportation costs for farmers to find feed for their animals, but the farmers would still be responsible for covering the actual feed costs.
The second letter from the ACA on Tuesday, July 19 stated after talking with members of the Arkansas legislature, the $3.5 million would be withdrawn from the Restricted Reserve Fund instead of the revenue surplus.
According to the statement, after the letters were submitted, the governor’s office was notified the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture was working on an economic impact analysis.
The preliminary data was released on Friday, July 29, and a report was published on Thursday, August 4, which estimated more than $95 million in hay and forage production had been lost due to the drought.
Later in the statement, officials said the Department of Agriculture does not have an established appropriation to administer an emergency feed assistance transportation program.
The statement ends with a word to farmers in the state:
“Helping farmers in Arkansas is very important to Governor Hutchinson. Governor Hutchinson sent a letter to USDA Secretary of Agriculture on July 15 requesting a statewide Secretarial Disaster Designation. Numerous counties have received the disaster designation and are eligible for emergency loans.
In addition, 27 counties in Arkansas have met the conditions of D3 (extreme drought) intensity and as a result, they are eligible to receive assistance through the USDA Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) in an amount equal to three monthly payments. Producers affected by the drought conditions should contact their local USDA FSA office for additional information about Livestock Forage Disaster Program as well as other USDA Disaster Assistance Programs.”
Sharp County farmer John Kunkel has advocated for farmers across Northeast Arkansas.
He said lawmakers haven’t been entirely silent, as State Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward and Executive Vice President Cody Burkham have worked with small farms across the state.
He said it’s time to tighten up our laces and help small farmers in Arkansas.
“I do believe that we could afford to give farmers back $3.5 million so that we can help save small farmers,” Kunkel said. “Agriculture is very important to Arkansas. When you look at the number of small farms that make up the entire cattle industry in Arkansas, it is very high.”
He added time is of the essence to help farmers before it is too late.
“Not only is Arkansas experiencing a drought, but so are other states. That means that hay becomes less available, and as demand goes up, the price goes up,” Kunkel said. “The more time we spend with red tape or sitting on these requests means that the farmers are going to have to spend even more money for the hay than what they are going to now if we get it to them.”
Kunkel emphasized if the governor doesn’t honor the $3.5 million request from the ACA, it indicates Arkansas doesn’t value small farmers.
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