Volume 14 Issue 1 January

Advances in Arkansas

By Kris Polly

In this first issue of 2023, we are honored to feature an interview with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who leaves office this month after serving the two terms

permitted by state law. Governor Hutchinson talks with us about the importance of irrigation to Arkansas—the nation’s number 1 rice producer—and the need to think strategically about future water supplies in the face of competing demands for water and declining groundwater levels.

We then speak with two water professionals who are working hard to do just that through major water infrastructure projects. Edward Swaim, the executive director of the Bayou Meto Water Management District, tells us about progress on the Bayou Meto Irrigation Project, which will distribute water from the Arkansas River to about 268,000 acres of farmland, and Dennis Carman, the director and chief engineer of the White River Irrigation District, tells us about the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project, which will supply water to farmers from the White River. We also talk to Kenneth Graves, the chairman of the Arkansas Rice Growers Association, about the importance of the irrigated crop for Arkansas’s economy.

Next, we interview Kirk Byles, the CEO of FreeWave Technologies, about his company’s radio devices and sensor products, which enable an entire smart agriculture ecosystem, and about the company’s new partnership with center-pivot manufacturer Reinke.

After he received an e-mail from the Nebraska Cattlemen Association about its Beef in Schools program, 14-year-old Kolter Wellman of Waverly/Eagle, Nebraska, spearheaded the expansion of the program to his school district. We speak with Kolter and his family about how Beef in Schools is connecting students with local agriculture.

American Leak Detection’s high-density polyethylene irrigation ditch liner is a lightweight, robust, man-portable lining system that is easier to install than concrete and pipe, conserves water, and provides years of service while reducing annual maintenance costs. We speak with Chief Technical Officer Kenneth Suazo about the system’s genesis and potential.

Our Arkansas-focused stories this month demonstrate the results that can be achieved when state government, local agencies, and industry associations band together for a common end. Helping to advance the Bayou Meto and Grand Prairie Irrigation Projects is one of the beneficial legacies that Governor Hutchinson will leave to his home state.

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and the president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.