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Arkansas governor celebrates beef, egg industry

Daniel Breen
Gov. Asa Hutchinson joined members of Arkansas' beef industry at the state Capitol on Friday.

May is officially Beef and Egg Month in the State of Arkansas.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson met with industry officials at the state Capitol Friday to discuss some of the challenges being faced by producers. Hutchinson said the agriculture industry continues to benefit from Arkansas’ positive economic position, with the state recently announcing a surplus of over $1 billion.

“We’re going to get [the surplus] back to you as quick as we can. So that’s, I think, a pretty good consensus among the legislature that we want to return that. We’ve lowered taxes and its really helped us grow our economy, but we’ve got to be able to return some of that surplus because it just keeps building,” Hutchinson said.

But despite the overall positive economic outlook in the state, producers say other pressures are causing difficulties. Cody Burkham, executive vice president of the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association, says ranchers are having to contend with rising energy prices.

“Our highest cost on our operations are feed costs. And right now with the price that fuel and fertilizer are at, that’s just driving the grain prices up, specifically corn. Cattle are usually finished on a pretty high corn diet," Burkham said. "That just increases costs all the way across the board for us."

Hutchinson suggested increasing domestic energy production as a way to alleviate rising prices. Burkham says because of rising grain prices, Arkansas ranchers are starting to use more rice and soybean products as cattle feed.

“We’re really pretty reliant on fertilizer from Russia and things from that part of the world, and I don’t know really how we change that right now unless we better develop and utilize what we have here in the United States,” Burkham said.

Despite recent hardships, he says demand for beef remains high both domestically and in the international market.

“Southeast Asian countries really like American beef. It’s the top of the line, and as their middle class grows and has more of a demand for that product… we’re really encouraged with our exports,” Burkham said.

Arkansas’ poultry industry accounted for $3.7 billion of the state’s agricultural market in 2020, while beef contributed about a $500 million to the state’s economy.