Governor Hutchinson's address for Arkansas Agriculture Week
Despite the many challenges that we are currently facing as a state and as a nation, Governor Hutchinson provided a
as a part of National Ag Week thanking our state’s largest industry for its continued hard work and dedication in providing the food, fiber, and shelter that we all depend on every day. Governor Hutchinson also proclaimed March 22-28 as Arkansas Agriculture Week. The proclamation can be found
Watch the video
Q & A with Secretary Wes Ward
Q. Is agriculture considered essential critical infrastructure?
On March 16, 2020, President Trump issued updated Coronavirus Guidance for America and in that guidance stated “if you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”
On March 19, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory memorandum on identification of essential critical infrastructure workers during COVID-19 response. This advisory memorandum included food and agriculture workers. On March 28, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released updated guidance which can be found here:
At this time, there are no directives or orders that would limit any individual or business within our state’s agriculture industry from continuing to perform normal activities. We encourage everyone to follow the health safety guidelines and directives from the Arkansas Department of Health which can be found at:
Governor Hutchinson understands the importance of our agriculture industry and the role that it plays in providing the food, fiber, and shelter that we all depend on every day. The Governor has been consistent in his message that we must do everything that we can to ensure that our state’s economy, as well as our state’s agriculture industry, be able to continue to operate to the full extent possible while also taking the necessary and appropriate actions to ensure that COVID-19 remains controlled and that residents and visitors in Arkansas remain safe.
Q. How is the Department working with industry stakeholders?
A. The Department is holding weekly conference calls with industry stakeholders and partners to discuss impacts of the pandemic on the industry and to collaborate on potential solutions. The Department also continues to participate in numerous weekly calls with the White House, USDA, and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) as the pandemic continues. As resources have been released on a state and federal level, we have provided access to the information through social medial outlets, email contact lists, and our website at:
Q. How is the Department working with the Arkansas Department of Health?
A. The Arkansas Department of Health has provided phenomenal leadership during this crisis and have taken considerable time to partner with us in providing guidance documents to our state’s agriculture industry. These documents include guidance for livestock markets, farmers markets, business and industry facilities, and migrant workers. The agriculture industry stakeholder calls as well as calls with USDA and NASDA have helped to provide the input needed to get these guidance documents in place and allow our industry to continue to operate to the maximum extent possible. These documents can be found on our website or the Arkansas Department of Health website at:
Q. Has the Department developed any outreach campaigns specifically for rural Arkansas or the agriculture community?
A. Through our many partnerships with industry stakeholders and organizations we have developed targeted social media campaigns to reach our rural agricultural communities. These targeted social media campaigns are intended to provide critical information to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Print and social media resources are available
on the Department’s website. Numerous resources have been produced in both English and Spanish. We’ve highlighted a few of these below.
The Department also produced a
highlighting safety precautions farmers can implement on their farms to protect from COVID-19.
Q. What measures have been taken to ensure that the Department of Agriculture can continue to provide support and services to the industry?
A. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture continues to provide critical services to the industry while taking steps to protect employees and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. A large percentage of our employees are working remotely while others continue to work on site while practicing social distancing measures and following other COVID-19 prevention protocols. Employees have adapted well and are continuing to deliver programs and services. I’m proud of their flexibility, resiliency, and commitment during this unprecedented time. The Department has also made the following adjustments to our programs:
Overview of responses:
- Changes have been made to aid with Pest Control Operator and Agent Licensing. Online Pest Control License Renewal (ALL CLASSIFICATIONS); Operator and agent Exam testing continue but is limited to 9 people on a given test date. Pre-registration information is available online: Operator Testing: Online Pest Control Operator Exam Application; Agent Testing: Pest Control Agent Exam & Transfer Application (Must Complete and Attach Verifiable OJT Form Below); OJT Form: VERIFIABLE ON-THE-JOB TRAINING RECORD
- Private Applicator License March 31, 2020, expirations have been extended to April 16, 2020. Pesticide Section, Private Applicator Extensions for License Renewals. Pesticide Applicator testing also continues but is limited to 10 people on a given test date. Anyone planning to test must sign up ahead of time through the following site: Pre-registration Form for Testing at the Pesticide Section of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture
- Produce Safety Rule Inspections – All activities that involve face-to-face interactions, which include inspections, on-farm readiness reviews, on-farm education or technical assistance activities, and any in-person education and outreach activities including trainings, have been restricted.
- Bureau of Standards – The Bureau of Standards has waived fuel volatility requirements that adopts SSTM D4814 fuel standards through May 1, 2020, for bulk delivery facilities and until June 1, 2020, for retail gasoline stations. View here: Bureau of Standards Website Posting for Fuel Waiver Request
Q. What actions have been taken to help improve access to food across the state?
A. The collaborative Food Access Map, initiated by Sarah Lane, the Department farm to school and early childhood education coordinator, helps make connections between Arkansas farmers and consumers, and provides critical information on meals available to the 65% of school-aged children in Arkansas who depend on them.
The Department is also partnering with Mangan Holcomb Partners/Team SI and the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau to support
, a free, one-stop resource that provides a comprehensive, reliable list of the most accurate business and nonprofit information for Arkansans. See the full story on COVID-19 Food Access Map and Upliftsrkansas.com below.
The Department is committed to serving Arkansas agriculture to the fullest extent possible at all times. Please do not hesitate to contact us whenever we can be of assistance in any way. Updates and resources, to include Department program and staff contact information, are available on our COVID-19 resource page at
COVID-19 Food Access Map
With the spread of COVID-19, farm to school systems have felt major impacts. Helping children across Arkansas access school meals in alternative ways is a primary focus. Arkansas Farm to School has seen creative and innovative ideas blossom from Arkansas child nutrition directors, kitchen staff, and volunteers. In addition, food pantries, community organizations, farmers, and restaurants are stepping up to provide access to food. We want to send a huge thank you for their hard work!
To improve access to food across the state, the Department has developed an
Arkansas COVID-19 Food Access Map
. The map features school meals, food pantries, community meals, and local food. This map is possible because of countless partnerships with agencies, nonprofits, farmers, and dedicated individuals.
The Department has also teamed up with Mangan Holcomb Partners/Team SI and the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau to support
, a free, one-stop resource that provides a comprehensive, reliable list of the most accurate business and nonprofit information for Arkansans during this COVID-19 crisis.
On Uplift Arkansas.com, a special category has been created with the
Food Access Map
to help make connections between Arkansas farmers and consumers and provide critical information on meals available to the 65% of school-aged children in Arkansas who depend on them.
This website update provides a resource hub for Arkansans to reach farmers who provide fresh food direct to consumers, farm-to-table restaurants, and local grocery stores through online sales, farmers markets, and on-farm sales. Local farmers and farmers market managers can upload real-time information and control their listings on the website as they adapt their operations to the COVID-19 situation. With this partnership, Arkansans can access the
Food Access Map resource
on UpliftArkansas.com and find Arkansas Grown food available in their areas, as well as schools and organizations that are offering free meals while schools are closed.
If you have information to add to the map, click the link below to fill out the survey.
Much appreciation goes out to the Department of Agriculture lab! They answered the call to make up some hand sanitizer to assist our inspectors in the field as well as office staff.
Here’s how we’re following
recommendations while also highlighting Arkansas Agriculture!
Forestry Employees are Hard at Work
Forestry employees are at work all over
and ready to serve the community, all at a safe
. County Forester Tabitha Holloway (left) is shown in a meeting with a landowner. Foresters also came out to clear fallen trees and debris (right) after the Jonesboro tornado.