The new Northeast Rice Research and Extension Center in Poinsett County, Arkansas, received a $2 million boost from Greenway Equipment.
Greenway executives John Conner Jr., chairman; Marshall Stewart, CEO; Steve Smith, chief financial officer; and Bill Midkiff, president, announced the donation April 16 with a check presentation at the station, about 8 miles south of Jonesboro on Arkansas Highway 1.
The $2 million gift provides $1 million for agricultural equipment at the station and $1 million toward the construction of the NERREC exhibition hall, which will be a community resource.
Unique production challenges
The center is being built by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and will provide new research into rice production practices for northeast Arkansas and beyond. Arkansas is the nation’s leading rice growing state, and growers are expected to plant more than 1.2 million acres this year.
Over the past few years, rice production in Arkansas has expanded northward. Differing soils in northeast Arkansas require different production practices from the rest of the state. That’s just one of the challenges researchers will tackle at the station.
Conner is a University of Arkansas alumnus whose family has grown cotton, soybeans and rice.
“With having such an extensive family presence at the University of Arkansas, along with the importance of the rice market to our region, the Northeast Rice Research and Extension Center is a great fit for this area and the communities involved,” he said.
Stewart said he believed that the center will provide great benefits for the rice industry.
“It will also open doors to new segments for our community to gain a better understanding of the importance that agriculture, specifically rice, plays in our region, state, and world,” he said. “Greenway is proud and honored to have the opportunity to help promote the positive narrative of agriculture.”
Midkiff said his company’s support of agriculture “in our local communities is not only a great opportunity, but also our duty.”
“Rice is a major crop grown within our region, and our desire with this partnership is to further enhance current research which will enable all growers to benefit from more sustainable, efficient, and profitable practices,” he said.
It takes partnerships to help achieve wide-ranging research and education goals, said Mark Cochran, vice president-agriculture for the University of Arkansas System.
“We are very pleased to have the support of Greenway, another entity that works hard to support Arkansas agriculture,” he said. “These private-public partnerships are extremely important in moving forward research that can benefit not only our growers, but also help Arkansas agriculture in its important economic role as the state’s largest industry.”
“This generous gift from Greenway is a foundational for the new station to begin its research and outreach missions,” said Tim Burcham, director of the NERREC, which is part of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. “I greatly appreciate the commitment Greenway has made to enhance the division’s programs that provide Arkansas producers with the unbiased information they need to continue to lead the nation in rice production.”
Burcham said that when complete, the station will also have research labs, facilities for community and industry meetings, as well as a learning space dedicated to educating grade school children and the general public on rice production in Arkansas.
Research to be conducted at the center includes water management from both surface and ground sources; remediation of fertility of recently leveled fields, and the coordination of rice production practices to meet goals associated with conservation and sustainability.
The center is being built in partnership with the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board, through the use of TRQ funds.
The University of Arkansas contributed this article.