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A legislative panel Wednesday voted to add a proposal to create a farm-to-school coordinator to the state Agriculture Department's appropriation for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The Joint Budget Committee's Personnel Subcommittee voted to amend Senate Bill 162 to create the post with an annual salary range of $56,039 to $81,257 a year, increase the department's number of authorized positions from 573 to 574 and increase the department's proposed spending authority for operations by $98,048 to $17.88 million.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

Rep. Rick Beck, R-Center Ridge, said Arkansas and New Jersey are the only two states without a farm-to-school coordinator.

"This person serves to connect our school districts to farm," he said. "There is a huge economic advantage to this program getting things done. There also is an advantage to promoting farming. The age of farmers are older. This farm-to-school course and all of this would certainly promote that industry also."

-- Michael R. Wickline

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