Carrie Antlfinger / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Lawmakers are expected to begin work next month on the sweeping legislation known as the Farm Bill.  The bill covers dozens of nutrition, agricultural and rural policies that affect everyday life.

While discussions around the Farm Bill often focus on food stamps, the supplemental food program that assists millions of Americans, including about one in seven Arkansas residents, this year lawmakers are also concentrating on agricultural safety net programs for farmers.

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In December, Governor Asa Hutchinson issued a memorandum to Col. Bill Bryant, director of Arkansas State Police as well as to state prosecutors declaring that the open carry of a handguns is protected by law and allowed, except for unlawful use and in certain restricted places. The governor wrote that the purpose of his guidance was to resolve confusion regarding the state’s gun possession law, amended five years ago.

The statute, as written, however remains open to interpretation.


On the steps of the Arkansas state Capitol today supporters of ending legal abortion gathered for a rally. Yesterday, another march with very different ralliers called for keeping abortion legal — as well as grooming female political candidates for office, gun control and other liberal aims.

Both marches enjoyed passionate speakers and considerable turnout, but only one enjoyed the presence of the state's most powerful constitutional officeholders, from Gov. Asa Hutchinson down.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

As U.S. Senate Democrats consider blocking budget funding to push for immigration legislation, Arkansas advocates are asking U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) to support legislation that would protect young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, so called “Dreamers.”

The Trump Administration announced plans to end the program this fall.


The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission’s unanimous vote today not to enforce any immediate action following a decision earlier this month to deny C&H Hog Farm an operating permit was a win for the beleaguered and controversial swine operation, but a slight and temporary one.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality announced on Jan. 11 its decision to deny the permit after more than 21 months. The hog operation has been operating on a lapsed permit until now.

Jacqueline Froelich / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

This report has been updated to reflect a recent regulatory filing.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality late Wednesday denied a new permit to C&H Hog Farms, the state's largest industrial swine breeding facility to maintain operations in rural Newton County. Opponents of the swine farm constructed in 2013 along Big Creek, a major tributary to the Buffalo National River, claim the farm is gravely polluting the watershed and have fought for five years to shut it down.

C&H Hog Farms owners are appealing ADEQ's decision.


It’s a small part of Arkansas's overall budget, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson's proposed $400 million dollar appropriation for the Department of Health next year got a strong review and a rebuke today by legislators at the capital.

"There are not enough votes to cut" the budget, complained state Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock), "therefore, I’m going to vote for the ER [executive recommendation], in which case the budget gets drafted, and we’ll fight this battle another day."

"Amen, brother," said Sen. Larry Teague (D-Nashville), Joint Budget Committee co-chairman, after roughly an hour's worth of motions, discussion, voice votes and roll calls.


A dispute is brewing between Arkansas’s rice industry and makers of other products over ownership of the word “rice” and the right to market foods as such.

“It is a grain, not a shape,” said Lauren Waldrip Ward with the Arkansas Rice Federation.

Ward and others are asking Arkansas’ federal delegation for some help in appealing to the Food and Drug Administration to restrict the use of the words "rice" and "riced" on products that do not contain grains.

Ward said rice is a significant sector of the Arkansas economy, with some 2,500 rice farms contributing billions to the state economy every year and supporting about 25,000 jobs, including many in the state’s most rural areas.


Arkansas’s spending on prisons and community corrections got a lengthy examination before a select committee of the state legislature Wednesday, but no legislator took serious issue with the more than half-billion dollar budget.

The Joint Budget Committee took aim at the 2018 budget for the state’s corrections departments, examining everything from health care and prison farms, to the cost of a phone call behind bars.

“If a guy gets put in prison, not only do we put him down there, we fix it to where he can’t even afford to call his family," said state Rep. Kim Hendren (R-Gravette).

Public Education funds in Arkansas are meeting bare minimums set under law and not getting any extra money in the governor’s proposed budget for next year.

Education Commissioner Johnny Key fielded lawmakers’ questions and concerns about the proposed budget at a Joint Budget Committee hearing on education funding Wednesday in advance of February’s fiscal session.