Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

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.

Bobby Ampezzan / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

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.

Governor's Office / You Tube

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson presented his $5.6 billion budget proposal to state lawmakers Tuesday ahead of this year’s fiscal session and outlined his longer-term vision for reducing taxes.

Hutchinson says there is a projected surplus of $64 million in the new state budget, partly because of higher than expected revenues. He says he’s using the majority of the extra money to create a reserve fund that only the legislature can tap into.

Dogwood Alliance

In 2017, Arkansas Public Media began to investigate the proliferation of industrial chip mills across the Deep South, including a newly opened mill in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The mills are grinding timber stands into millions of tons of wood pellets for export to fuel retrofitted coal fire plants in the European Union and United Kingdom, where biomass is classified and subsidized as clean renewable fuel.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control

The Arkansas Department of Health is warning residents about a significant influenza outbreak and how best to prepare.

“In a bad flu year, it's estimated a third of the population gets the flu," says Dr. Dirk Haselow, state epidemiologist who is tracking outbreak response. "In Arkansas that would be a million people." 

This influenza season, which began in early December and ends in late March, intensified over the holiday season and is shaping up to be a bad one, Haselow says.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

The Arkansas Plant Board has doubled down on its plan to ban Dicamba, the agricultural weed killer. The vote Wednesday was a slight rebuke of state Rep. Bill Sample (R-Hot Springs) and colleagues on a legislative subcommittee that last month asked the board to reconsider the ban, specifically the April 15 cutoff date for spraying Monsanto’s controversial herbicide.

Renea Goddard / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Virginia Duck is the mother of Sequoia and Cheyenne, two young girls with growing feet. She and her daughters wait in line with nearly 60 other people who are in need of new shoes and footcare. She explains that her oldest, Sequoia, outgrows her shoes constantly.

"My oldest one here, she wears a size 11, bigger shoes than me, so, you know her feet are growing," says Virginia. "She’s only 13, so she’s growing bigger and bigger and bigger." 

Jacqueline Froelich / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Sending children to the principal's office has long been a traditional punishment for unruly students. But Principal Michelle Hutton at Elmdale Elementary in Springdale offers safe haven where children can talk about what's troubling them, including traumatic events.

Elmdale faculty and staff have partnered with Ozark Guidance, a regional community mental health center, to learn how to assess students struggling with trauma to provide them proper help.

Bobby Ampezzan / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

 Prompted by the Phoenix scandal three years ago, a team of journalism professors and students at the University of Arkansas took a hard look at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks, and they're giving it a good grade.

But the semester-long investigation does highlight two devastating trends surrounding veterans' and their quality of life.

As part of an ongoing collaboration, students and professors in the Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism have teamed up with Arkansas Public Media and partner radio station KUAF to publish a series of reports and broadcast the findings.

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