UACES Facebook LeadAR Class 20: Arkansas Ag Econ 101 and State Public Policy Prep
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LeadAR Class 20: Arkansas Ag Econ 101 and State Public Policy Prep

by Winfrey Norton*, Outreach Editor, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service - November 6, 2023

When LeadAR Director Julie Robinson reminded Class 20 members that cameras must be on for the October virtual seminar, most quickly complied, unveiling spooky masks and costumes for a fun, festive Friday fright.

LeadAR Class 20 Zoom image-some are wearing Halloween masks

In a similar spirit, LeadAR Class 20 then shared their favorite parts of fall, which ranged from watching football and attending harvest festivals in their local communities to devouring yummy, home-cooked foods like chili and cozying up in the “sweta wetha”.

LeadAR’s October virtual session focused on two topics:

  1. The economics of agriculture in Arkansas presented by Dr. John Anderson, department chair in Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness at the University of Arkansas, and beginning in January 2024, the new senior associate VP – Extension, better known as Cooperative Extension Service Director.

  2. Preparations for the upcoming public policy and media seminar led by Kristin Higgins, a program associate in the Public Policy Center.

Dr. Anderson gave an overview of agricultural economics in Arkansas through a series of charts, graphs, and maps visualizing data from a variety of sources, including USDA’s Economic Research Service. One concept discussed was total factor productivity, or the portion of output not explained by the amount of inputs used in production (i.e. land and labor), which has grown and has driven U.S. agricultural output growth steadily over the last 70 years.

With increased ag productivity, input composition has shifted over time toward less use of labor and land and more use of capital (excluding land) and intermediate goods (i.e., seeds, energy use, fertilizers, etc.). These changes, as well as technology costs and benefits, shifted average farm sizes necessary to benefit from economies of scale to larger farms.

In Arkansas, food and ag economic output was 29% of total economic output in 2022, according to the Senate Ag Committee Republicans. In 2022, Arkansas ranked 1st in U.S. rice production, 3rd in broiler, cotton, and catfish productions, and 4th in turkey production. Broilers were the top commodity by receipts, while soybeans accounted for the largest share of planted acres in Arkansas.

Inflation-adjusted net farm income in Arkansas was higher in 2022 than previous years, but is forecasted to fall in 2023 at the national level. Dr. Anderson addressed several issues currently facing the ag industry: the farm safety net, ag technology, water quantity/quality, market access and organization, and rural community support. He is also the Director of the Fryar Price Risk Management Center, which has a neat podcast called Relevant Risk that explores issues pertinent to agriculture in Arkansas.

Kristin Higgins from the UADA's Public Policy Center led the second half of the virtual session. She summarized how public policy is developed and adopted in Arkansas. She explained expectations of LeadAR Class 20 for the upcoming policy and media seminar to be held at the Arkansas Capitol in January, which will include simulation of the legislative process by identifying, drafting, submitting, lobbying, and presenting bills. The class brainstormed possible bills in small breakout groups and then learned a bit about parliamentary procedure for the mock session. The class received deadlines for their draft bills and forthcoming committee assignments for the LeadAR legislative session in January.

The November LeadAR session will be in northwest Arkansas, which will include a dinner on Nov. 16 at Crystal Bridges in Bentonville with the Arkansas Association of LeadAR Alumni (register here). Don’t miss an opportunity to meet and mingle with LeadAR Class 20!

LeadAR is a program designed to help Arkansans broaden their understanding of issues and opportunities facing our state and strengthen their ability to make a difference. For more information about LeadAR, read related blog posts, visit the website, or contact Julie Robinson,, or Lisa Davis,


*The summary provided in this blog is of the author and should not be construed to represent any official USDA or U.S. Government determination or policy.