Arkansas Farm Bureau elects leaders

A farmworker harvests rice at Isbell Farms in England, Ark. in this September 30, 2022 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cristina LaRue)
A farmworker harvests rice at Isbell Farms in England, Ark. in this September 30, 2022 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cristina LaRue)

Arkansas Farm Bureau voting delegates reelected seven board members to two-year terms, reelected the bureau's vice president, elected a new president and approved a policy agenda for the upcoming year on the final day of the bureau's state convention in Little Rock on Friday.

Current secretary and treasurer Dan Wright, 63, who is a poultry and hay producer from Waldron, will soon begin his first term as the 12th president in the state bureau's 89-year history.

"For the past four months, I have traveled up and down the roads of Arkansas, some interstate, some four-lane, some two-lane," Wright told voting delegates ahead of the vote for the bureau's president on Friday.

"And as I traveled across our great state, visiting your counties, I found one thing in common. We all love what we do. We all love our agriculture. We all love Arkansas. We all have kinship. Which means that we are all one big Arkansas family."

Wright was a member of the bureau's state board for nine years and has been the secretary and treasurer of the board for the past four years.

"I'm humbled and honored by the trust our membership has placed in me to lead our organization into our next era of advocacy, outreach and education for agriculture and rural communities," Wright said later in an Arkansas Farm Bureau news release on Friday.

"Now, more than ever, is it crucial for our leaders and neighbors to understand the work and commitment our farmers and ranchers have in feeding each and every household in America and much of the world."

Wright was elected to fill outgoing president Rich Hillman's position. Hillman said Wednesday that he would not seek reelection.

Hillman held the president's position at the state bureau for the last four years and previously served as vice president for 11 years; he first joined the organization's board of directors in 2001.

The bureau's vice president, Mike Freeze, 71, will begin his fifth term and was first elected alongside Hillman in 2019. Freeze operates Keo Fish Farm in Lonoke County.

"I'm thankful to the membership for the confidence they continue to have in me," Freeze said in the news release.

Row crop farmer Terry Dabbs was elected to take over Wright's role as secretary and treasurer; Dabbs has served on the bureau's board of directors since 2004 and grows rice, soybeans, wheat, corn and oats.

The reelected board members include Sherry Felts of Joiner, Bob Shofner of Centerton, Jon Carroll of Moro, Joe Thrash of Houston, Terry Laster of Strong, Chase Groves of Garland City and Jack Evans of Lonoke.

Voting delegates also set the state bureau's policy agenda for 2024, changing existing policy to allow the creation of a "candidate-focused" political action committee; opposing changes to the designation of and/or expansion of the Buffalo National River; and adopting policies on beginning farmer tax credits, continuing tax exemptions for agricultural input items, K-12 agricultural education, funding for state and county fairs and tax exemptions for 4H and Future Farmers of America projects.

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