About 1,500 people came to the 2013 Arkansas Rice Expo to participate in field tours, hear news on national farm policy, learn of new and developing agriculture software, and other rice information at more than 50 booths.

The Expo was held Aug. 6 in the Grand Prairie Center at Stuttgart. Next year’s event is set for Aug. 1 at the Grand Prairie Center.

The Arkansas Rice Expo began traditional field days when producers could visit research fields and learn of research into improving rice production. The Expo still provides field visits, as well as other information, events and family activities held at two locations.

Chuck Wilson, Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center director, remarked that, "We are pleased with the community’s interest and participation in this event … We hope to continue to present ideas, issues and activities that will keep the event meaningful for our neighbors."

Keynote speaker was U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, who praised the agriculture industry in Arkansas and the U.S., but spoke of frustration with lack of progress in Congress on the new farm bill.

Betsy Ward, USA Rice Federation president and CEO, gave spoke on rice policy and technological progress.

Janet Carson, extension horticulture specialist, spoke about raised bed gardening.

Xueyan Sha and Greg Berger told about the rice breeding programs at the Division of Agriculture. Sha emphasized medium grain rice, Berger is working to improve the quality of hybrids grown in Arkansas.

Wilson remarked that Sha "has taken aggressive steps" speed up medium grain releases, and has been able to produce multiple generations in a single year," he said.

Berger is developing good-quality hybrids so Arkansas growers to demand premium prices for their rice and maintain our competitive edge in the export market, Wilson said.

Dharmendra Sarawat, extension engineer, of Agriculture told of agricultural apps being developed with other faculty members.

Mike Hamilton, Poinsett County extension agent, demonstrated apps for mobile devices that growers can use to improve efficiency.

In his remarks, Pryor noted that the Senate had approved a version of a new farm bill in June; while the House of Representatives approved a "stripped down" version that excluded nutrition programs that had been paired with the farm component for decades.

"When you look at farm policy … like we say here in Arkansas, ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’," Pryor said. "We always have things we can work on, but it ain’t broke, and it’s been hugely successful," he said.

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30. If allowed to do so, the law reverts to the Agricultural Act of 1949.

Farmers and the nation need a comprehensive farm bill to keep the domestic food crop safe, affordable and reliable, to feed families and to grow the economy, Pryor said.

"Arkansas is a powerhouse when it comes to agriculture … it contributes $17 billion annually to our economy and is one-fourth of all economic activity in this state … Agriculture pays the bills for hardworking Arkansans. Why put all of this at jeopardy?" Pryor asked.

Rice Expo sponsors included RiceTec, Producers Rice Mill, Farm Credit, Specialty Rice, Riceland, Ag-Pro, Dow AgroSciences, Stratton Seed Co.,

Holt Agribusiness, Koch Agronomic Services, Progeny, Greenway, RiceCo, Heritage Agriculture of Arkansas, Gowan, Syngenta, Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation,

Cache River Valley Seed, Prairie Implement Co., Arkansas Rice and USA Rice Federation.