George Jared/ Talk Business & Politics

Cotton field
Trisha Downing / WIkimedia Commons

Each year plant bugs, a perennial pest of Arkansas cotton, spend June and early July consuming the silk of corn while it’s still green. As seed is set on corn and the silks begin to dry, however, plant bugs begin to gravitate towards other row crops, such as cotton.

This year, the problem is unusually bad.

Workers position outer and inner anchor weldments in place last month on the I-40 bridge over the Mississippi River as part of the ongoing repair.
Tennessee Department of Transportation

Repairs to the fractured Interstate 40 bridge connecting West Memphis to Memphis are progressing rapidly and officials with the Arkansas Department of Transportation and the Tennessee Department of Transportation are confident the bridge will re-open by late July or early August.

ArDOT public information officer Dave Parker told Talk Business & Politics that phase one of the work is complete and repair crews are now in phase two of the project which includes inspections.

Equipment is installed on the I-40 bridge over the Mississippi River last week for tension rods that will be used to install new steel plates.
Tennessee Department of Transportation

Officials still are unsure when repairs to the Interstate 40 bridge will be complete, and it will not be reopened to even partial traffic until finished.

Tennessee Department of Transportation Community Relations Officer Nicole Lawrence told Talk Business & Politics there have been no significant issues in repairing the fractured beam that closed the bridge in early May. Work will continue through the end of July at a minimum, she said.

Anthony Bland formally announced his candidacy for governor of Arkansas Wednesday in Hot Springs.
KATV-Channel 7

Dr. Anthony Bland fell short in his 2018 attempt to win the lieutenant governor’s race in Arkansas, but that did not deter the Democrat from Little Rock from setting his sights on the state’s top job.

Bland, 43, told Talk Business & Politics he intends to seek the Democratic nomination for governor during the 2022 election cycle. He formally launched his campaign Wednesday in Hot Springs.

“I’ve been advocating for change in this state for a long time,” he said.

Small models of statues made by the sculptors Benjamin Victor of Daisy Bates (left) and Kevin Kresse of Johnny Cash.
Arkansas National Statuary Hall Steering Committee

Arkansas is ready to change its sculptures in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol, and sculptors have been selected. The two statues in the Hall, those of U.M. Rose and James P. Clarke, will be replaced with civil rights icon Daisy Gatson Bates and hall-of-fame musician Johnny Cash.

Little Rock Port Authority Port of Little Rock
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

In 1943, research began on a massive infrastructure project in the heart of the mid-south. The McClellan-Kerr Navigation System, completed in the early 1970’s, has become an economic engine that spurred the growth of the port system along the Arkansas River and other waterways in the region that tie into it.

A panel convened Monday in Little Rock to discuss the 50-year anniversary of the project. Speakers included Gov. Asa Hutchinson and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

Dicamba damage
University of Arkansas

Extended use of the controversial herbicide dicamba was approved by the Arkansas Plant Board earlier this year, but has now been stopped, at least temporarily, according to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.

Legislature Matthew Shepherd
Sarah Kellogg / KUAR News

Should the Arkansas Legislature have the power to call itself into an extraordinary session?

The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on Monday (April 19) passed SJR 10, a proposed change to the state constitution for voter consideration. The resolution could be one of three proposals that legislators refer to voters for the 2022 general election.

An abandoned railroad right-of-way near Hazen. The report says rural areas like this saw a population decline of 3.3% over the last decade.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

According to the 2021 Rural Profile of Arkansas, the state’s rural population decreased about 3.3% between 2010 and 2019, while the overall population of Arkansas grew by more than 3% during that same period. However, about 41% of the state’s population still resided in rural counties in 2019, which was higher than the national average.

Wayne Miller, professor of Community, Professional and Economic Development for the Division of Agriculture, and co-author of the 2021 profile, said the publication highlights both the challenges and successes of rural communities in the state.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas is one of the only states without some type of hate crime law on the books, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said more than once it’s a top priority for him during the current legislative session. SB622, filed Thursday will attempt to solve that problem.

Arkansas House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, speaking with reporters Thursday, said hate crimes legislation remains stuck in committees and there doesn't seem to be support to advance the bills.
Talk Business & Politics

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed Arkansas’ version of a Stand Your Ground bill into law this week, but when he did so he encouraged the Arkansas Legislature to pass a hate crimes bill. Arkansas Speaker of the House Matthew Shepherd said Thursday there has been no real change since hate crimes legislation was introduced earlier in the session.

Stock Photo

The life blood of many small businesses is access to capital. Since 2017, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has distributed $658.8 million in SBA 7(A) loans in Arkansas, with few of those going to women and minorities.

According to a study by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and Winrock International, most of the loans were provided to businesses owned by whites and men, and nearly 77% of the loans were given to businesses owned by whites. Only 8% were given to businesses owned by primarily women.

Arkansas Farm Bureau

Single-digit wind chills, freezing water in pipes and troughs, and high snow loads on roofs are causing concerns for poultry and cattle operations, specialists from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture said Monday.

The record-setting storm front that stretches from Texas to Maine has caused millions to lose power as snowfall totals and bitter cold ravage almost half the country, according to the National Weather Service.

Nestlé will invest more than $100 million to expand the company’s production facility in Jonesboro to include a new line to produce Hot Pockets brand sandwiches, the company announced Wednesday. As part of the expansion, the company plans to hire at least 100 new employees during the next two years as well as renovate and add 90,000 square feet to its facility.

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station took questions Thursday from students in northeast Arkansas.

Nettleton School District STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) students did something Thursday that no one in Arkansas has ever done – talked directly to astronauts inside the International Space Station.

An aerial photo of the Big River Steel facility in November 2016. U.S. Steel Corporation is taking steps to acquire complete ownership of the plant.
Big River Steel

United States Steel Corp. is on the verge of becoming the sole owner of Big River Steel, the first “superproject” in the history of the Natural State.

U.S. Steel has exercised its call option to acquire the remaining equity of BRS for approximately $774 million from cash on hand. The company ended November with approximately $2.9 billion of liquidity, including about $1.7 billion in cash. The deal is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2021, subject to satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including antitrust approval.

Dicamba damage
University of Arkansas

The debate over the use of dicamba use continues to rage throughout the country and in the courtroom and it will soon affect crop planning for 2021.

The broad-spectrum herbicide, which was first developed and registered in the late 1960s, has been the foundation of several marketed weed control measures and, more recently, genetically modified seed technologies.

Damage to Arkansas crops from Tropical Storm Laura.
University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service

Arkansas farmers are still calculating the damage in the wake of Tropical Storm Laura. The storm that hit the state Thursday produced gushing rains, high winds and a multitude of tornadoes in northeast Arkansas. Originally a hurricane, Laura was the first storm in state history to produce a tropical storm warning, according to the National Weather Service

Linda Collins and Rebecca O'Donnell

Rebecca O’Donnell pleaded guilty Thursday in the death of former Arkansas state Sen. Linda Collins and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. The plea deal includes charges of first-degree murder, abuse of a corpse and two no-contest pleas to solicit murder in Jackson County.

O’Donnell had worked for Smith in her business ventures and on political campaigns. Had she not accepted the deal, O’Donnell was facing a potential death sentence if the case went to trial. 

rice fields
Mickey Liaw /

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned what looked to be abysmal conditions for Arkansas farmers into something worse as the growing season got underway, but one crop might provide a buffer – rice. Two crops, cotton and corn, could be especially hard hit through 2023, according to a model run by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

An ariel perspective of recent work to U.S. 67 in Jacksonville.
Google Earth

The Arkansas Department of Transportation will be awarded $40 million to reconstruct and improve two sections of US 67 northeast of Little Rock. U.S. Senators John Boozman, Tom Cotton, along with U.S. Reps Rick Crawford and French Hill announced the project on Tuesday.

The project will widen US 67 from four to six lanes, construct an overpass, convert frontage roads to one-way operation and reconstruct two interchanges. The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program.

Cotton field
Trisha Downing / WIkimedia Commons

For hundreds of years, the dark, nutrient-rich soils of the Arkansas Delta supported cotton farming. For more than a century, trade in this plant made this the most prosperous region in the state. As the 2000s unfolded, the cotton industry and supported industries such as ginning began a massive decline.

Cotton field
Trisha Downing / WIkimedia Commons

Cotton growers who have been financially hurt by a global drop in demand and market prices are now eligible for relief funding through the federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released additional details regarding the program, through which payments are now available for a number of non-specialty crops, including upland cotton.