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Senate panel favors halt to 6,300-acre UA sale

by Stephen Steed | March 30, 2021 at 1:58 a.m.

A state Senate committee on Monday recommended approval of a bill prohibiting the sale of 6,300 acres of a state agriculture research station in St. Francis County.

House Bill 1694 seeks to stop the University of Arkansas System's Division of Agriculture from executing a contract it signed last year to sell 6,300 acres of the UA's Pine Tree Research Station near Colt to a private group, Lobo Farms LLC. Rep. Steve Hollowell, R-Forrest City, and Sen. Ron Caldwell, R-Wynne, are the bill's chief sponsors.

The Senate Committee on Education supported the bill on a voice vote, with no votes of opposition heard. HB1694 goes to the full Senate.

Hunters and anglers oppose the sale of the land, which has been open to the public for hunting, fishing and hiking for decades.

The 6,300 acres are wet, wooded and not conducive to row-crop research conducted elsewhere at the station. UA agreed last year to sell the land for about $17 million, plus an endowment of $1 million for research into animal and wetlands conservation.

UA has said $5 million of the proceeds would go toward construction of the Northeast Rice Research and Extension Center near Jonesboro, with the remainder going to infrastructure improvements and programs in precision agriculture, forestry management and wetlands and animal conservation.

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