Senate Agri

Jan. 12, 2023 

Sen Caldwell: Call this meeting of the Senate Agri Committee to order. This is nothing but an organizational meeting. There are no bills to be heard today, but I want us to introduce ourselves to the staff, and have staff introduce themselves to us. When we come back for a meeting next time, the table will be reversed. I’ll be sitting at that end, and witnesses will be sitting here. And that way, we can all look at the audience, and I won’t have my back to the audience, so no big deal. I’m Ronald Caldwell, chair of Ag. I’m starting my 11th year in the Senate, and I serve in District 10, which comprises of 10 counties, ironically. And if anybody wants part of them, I’ll let you have them. [laughter] But I go from Jackson County, which is Newport to the north through Wynne and Augusta, McCrory and Forrest City and Marianna, Stuttgart, DeWitt, Brinkley, Hazen, Des Arc and DeValls Bluff. So there are a lot of agri through there. I tell people I have more rice acres than everybody else combined, so you’ll hear things coming up about rice during the session and we’ll talk about that later. But anyway, I’m glad you all chose Agri. The committee comprises of a lot of other subject matters other than Agri: oil and gas, parks and tourism, economic development.


Sen Caldwell: So I’ve asked, I understand that Big River Steel may have bills coming back. Are you familiar with that, Senator Wallace? Do they have the rebar plants coming up? I’ve asked if those bills come back to Agri so that we can discuss the economic development values of it. The first year they came to Agri. The last two times, they’ve sent it to Revenue and Tax, which I’m also on. But they discuss the actual revenue. They don’t discuss the economic development, how if affects different counties and things of that nature. So we’ll have some unique subject matters that y’all are not familiar with. But with that saying, I’ll start here with Senator Stone, let him introduce himself, and we’ll go around the table, and then we’ll have staff to introduce themselves, okay?


Sen Stone: I’m Matt Stone. I’m vice chair of the Agriculture Committee. I have Senate District 2 that goes from Junction City at the Louisiana line all the way north to Sheridan. I’ve spent the last 43 years in the forest industry, and I know that forestry falls under the purview of the Department of Agriculture, and I felt like this was just a natural fit for me to be in here to represent the forest industry.


Sen Gilmore: Ben Gilmore, Senate District– I’m sorry, on. There we go. Thank you, John. I appreciate you. Ben Gilmore Senate District 1. Which lucky number one, when people start calling through the list, they start with one. So I can tell you all, when you start getting calls, I probably have them first. But my District goes from Grant County all the way down to the Louisiana line and over to Mississippi, so the whole southeast corner is mine. I don’t have quite as many counties as Ron, but close. I have eight counties, so with a lot of area to cover.


Sen Dees: Tyler Dees, I represent District 35 of 35, the end of the list. And we’re the book ends. I didn’t realize that. And honored to be on this committee. This was my first choice. I’ve got a background with the poultry industry working for Simmons Foods and so would love to be a voice for a lot of poultry farmers in northwest Arkansas. I represent western Benton County and western Washington County. Live in Siloam Springs, and so happy to be here today.


Sen Love: Fredrick Love, serving my 13th year in the legislature. It’s my first year in the Senate. I served on Ag my freshman year, when I came into the legislature, so I’m happy to be on this committee again. I serve only one County, which is Pulaski. So, thank you.


Sen Davis: I’m Breanne Davis. I’ve been in the Senate since 2018, so I’m creeping up on 5 years, and this is my first time to be on the Ag committee. I have a small flower farm, which is a different type of Ag. It’s a little niche thing, but I really enjoy it. And so glad to be here.


Sen Wallace: Dave Wallace, District 19. This is my third time on the Ag committee. I represent all of Mississippi County, Poinsett County or almost all Poinsett County, and most of Craighead County, with the exception of the town of Jonesboro. Glad to be here.


Jones-BLR Staff: I’m John Jones, legislative analyst with the Bureau. This is my second session staffing the Agriculture Forestry and Economic Development Committee. I’m glad to be back serving this committee and look forward to working with you all.


Sen Caldwell: We’ll have fun. We’ll have some controversies, I’m sure. But there’ll be a lot of fun things that come up. Senator Leding’s not here. I would love for him to come and let him explain to you the subject of artificial insemination that he tried to run a bill on last time. And coming from Fayetteville, he just really didn’t understand it. But anyway, we had a good time doing that. And we will get together. I’ve already had several lobbies to ask about taking us to dinner. In times past with COVID, we were not able to go out on committees. I’ve not heard them say that we weren’t going to do that, and I think everything’s back up to full speed. So if you have a restaurant of choice, please let me know. Someone has suggested the new Red Oak restaurant in Pine Bluff at the Saracen Casino, which is supposed to be the nicest restaurant in the state now. So it does’t matter to me. And we’re not limited to one time. We’re limited to one time per week. But we have to give notice to BLR on what we’re going to do, at least 24 hours, and I don’t want to take your time away from other things that you have going on. ut if you all have something that you want to do, we’ll do that.


Sen Caldwell: There are other things that folks have tried to get us lined up to do and touring some of the marijuana growing facilities, which falls under our purview that– I don’t smoke it, I never have. I don’t drink. But there’s a lot of things that come under our purview that we have to legislate. But if y’all have anything that you want to tour or look at during the session, we could look at setting those trips up. Okay?


Jones-BLR Staff: Need to adopt our rules, for committee.


Sen Caldwell: Okay.


Jones-BLR Staff: You all have a copy in your folders.


Sen Caldwell: Okay. In the folder you have a copy of the rules here, and they’re basically the committee rules that we normally follow, nothing out of the ordinary. If you want to take a second and look at that. I know Senator King was having a lot of debate about the five votes. Because of cameras and microphones, I’m very OCD about making sure that we have the members here. I don’t bend the rules on that. I play by the rules. I want y’all to do the same thing. And so we’ve done it before. I run a very open committee, and I try to run a very fair committee. Even if it’s something I don’t agree with, that you want to run, that’s your privilege as a senator, and I respect the decorum of the Senate and the committee, and so we will try to do that. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to get your bill passed. So if it’s something we all agree on, four or five do, we’ll pass it, and if not, then we won’t.


Sen Caldwell: One thing I would try to say, stay away from until the end of the session, is when everything gets jammed up and that is signing a bill out. I’d rather have it discussed in committee, heard in committee and voted on in committee. But if we get to the end of something, then that’s something that we can allow to do. It takes five members to sign a bill out and sign a yes vote. So any questions on the rules? I hear a motion do pass from Senator Gilmore and the second from Senator Wallace. All in favor say aye. Okay. That’s it. Punch you mic.


Sen Dees: Will you go back to– you had mentioned the tours and meetings–.


Sen Caldwell: Sure. And often we do this outside of session, but if there were times during session we wanted to, we always have people in the forestry industry want us to come down and tour lumber mills or plywood mills or things of that nature. We have the marijuana growing facilities is brand new. That all has taken place since I’ve been here. And so again, it’s not something I supported or voted for, but since it’s law of the land, and I’m elected to uphold the Constitution, then we have to legislate it.


Sen Dees: My question around scheduling of that. It’s got to be 24 hour notice–


Sen Caldwell: Well not necessarily true.  But if they feed us. So we have to give BLR anytime that– we would arrange our own time frame, then give BLR the notice that we want to do this, and they get it approved and signed off on. Yep. Yep. So I mean, we may schedule it three weeks out right now, but BLR has to have a minimum 24 hour notice. We give them three weeks notice. Okay? Any other questions? No? We’re adjourned.