The Arkansas Rice Council and Arkansas Rice Farmers will hold their annual meeting and trade show Monday, February 19, at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro. In addition to keynote speaker Governor Asa Hutchinson, the event will also highlight agricultural crop burning. A task force comprised of stakeholders representing the Arkansas Rice Federation, Arkansas Soybean Association, Ag Council of Arkansas and the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation is currently working to develop a set of guidelines applicable to crop burning. Along with input from the Arkansas Agriculture Department, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, the group is considering farmer burn plans and the reporting of prescribed burns to the Arkansas Forestry Commission Dispatch Center as part of voluntary smoke management guidelines - a process already in place for forest landowners. Arkansas Agriculture Department officials including Secretary Wes Ward, State Forrester Joe Fox, Communications Director Adriane Barnes, Assistant State Forester Don McBride and Fire Management Officer Fred Burnett will discuss a model already in place by the Arkansas Prescribed Fire Council's voluntary Smoke Management Guidelines for forest landowners, and private, state, and federal forestry agencies and companies. "This annual event is an important opportunity for rice farmers to gather and discuss timely issues and ways we can work together as an industry as we plan for the next growing season," said Jeff Rutledge, Chairman of the Arkansas Rice Federation. "Field burning is part of a complete crop management strategy and our growers want to ensure the continued quality of the airshed their families and neighbors breathe. The annual meeting will lead to an increase of awareness and education among the industry regarding voluntary smoke management guidelines." "Our industry has repeatedly shown a willingness to adopt voluntary guidelines or best management practices as opposed to being subject to additional government regulations. Here our row crop industry is looking to the lessons that our forest landowners have learned in the past and we are all working together to find common sense solutions," Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward said previously regarding the task force. "This is a perfect example of how we can accomplish more together than apart." The event will include an industry trade show and conclude with a free catfish lunch for registered attendees. Individual attendance is free. Sponsorship opportunities can be found here. If you are interested in attending or sponsoring this year's meeting, register online at www.arkansasrice.org/annualmeeting/ or call 501.375.1100 by February 6. The event is sponsored in part by Greenway Equipment.