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Senators approve bill for rice center

by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette | April 2, 2021 at 1:56 a.m.

The Senate on Thursday approved Senate Bill 447, an appropriations measure for the proposed Northeast Rice Research and Extension Center near Jonesboro.

The bill's $16.5 million appropriation for the center, however, is unfunded under the state's current fiscal situation, Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, told senators just before the 30-5 vote in favor of the bill.

SB447 also contains special language prohibiting the University of Arkansas System's Agriculture Division from following through on its planned sale of 6,300 acres of the Pine Tree Research Station in St. Francis County to a private entity.

UA officials, including system President Donald Bobbitt, have said the legislative ban on the sale could result in the UA system being sued for breach of contract. House Bill 1694 also prohibits the sale. It has been approved by both chambers and is now with the governor.

Lobo Farms LLC in Poinsett County had agreed to buy the Pine Tree acreage for more than $17 million, plus a $1 million endowment in animal and wetlands conservation.

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