Three countries — China, Japan and Russia — have stopped importing poultry from Arkansas because of an outbreak of avian flu in one commercial chicken house in Scott County, a possible blow to the state’s economy, a state agriculture official told lawmakers Tuesday.
Livestock and Poultry Commission Director Preston Scroggin said the outbreak of avian flu, discovered June 16 on a farm in the Boles Community, was contained to one chicken house and testing of all poultry within a 6.2 mile radius has been negative.
New Treasurer ‘Auditing’ his way through office
It’s been a solid month since Charles Robinson was named by Gov. Mike Beebe to serve out the remainder of former state Treasurer Martha Shoffner’s term of office. In that time, Robinson has oriented himself to the office and its staff, and is planning for a big July as a new consulting group reshapes office policy.
His predecessor, Shoffner, pleaded innocent to charges of extortion and accepting bribes Thursday.
ASU’S Welch: Transformative investment in higher education needed
Arkansas State University System President Charles L. Welch said Arkansas needs to make a “transformative investment” in higher education. Without dedicated capital funding for the state’s two-year and four-year colleges, there is no funding for major initiatives seen in similar states.
“But long-term, our universities cannot — and should not — continue to make incremental improvements and try to stay competitive on the shoulders of students through continued tuition increases. The resolve shown for significant economic investments in secondary education and highways must also be demonstrated for our universities and colleges,” Welch said.
Beebe calls on NWA business leaders to defend private option
Gov. Mike Beebe told members of the Northwest Arkansas Council, an influential business group in the region, that they needed to support the private option health insurance plan passed by state lawmakers. A group seeking to repeal the plan is collecting signatures for a potential ballot initiative. Beebe said the business group had “a public responsibility” to stand against the effort.
Pryor, Boozman split on immigration vote
A 68-32 vote on immigration reform was a display of bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate, but it split Arkansas’s senatorial delegation.
The U.S. Senate voted to approve the immigration reform measure, which still must clear a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., voted in favor of the bill, while Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., opposed it.
The legislation includes a 13-year pathway for 11 million undocumented immigrants to earn legal status. It also includes enhanced border security measures and increases the number of visas available for highly skilled workers and entrepreneurs as well as visas for temporary agricultural workers.
Obama climate change effort welcomed, opposed in Arkansas
In a speech at Georgetown University, President Barack Obama gave a preview of forthcoming major initiatives to address climate change and environmental concerns. His proposals included limiting carbon pollution from existing power plants, completing standards for new fossil fuel power plants and a new round of fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks.
Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke weighed in with support for the President’s plans, while State Chamber President Randy Zook said it was “an unprecedented attack on jobs.”
Head of Walmart India resigns
Some seven months after Walmart Stores Inc. suspended executives within its Bharti joint venture, the head of the company’s Indian operations has resigned. Walmart confirmed Raj Jain, CEO of Bharti Walmart, is “no longer” with the company.
Jain spent six years at that post and had seven total years at the retailer. Newly hired Ramnik Narsey, senior vice president for Walmart International, will serve as interim leader for India.
Delta Regional Authority awards grant to ASU-Newport
The Delta Regional Authority awarded a $97,771 grant to Arkansas State University-Newport to help train local residents in food service management as part of a new Food and Hospitality Services program. The program is an effort to support the emergence of the tourism and culinary sectors in the region and increase awareness, availability and use of Delta grown or produced foods.
The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership that works for job creation and community development in the 252 counties and parishes of the Delta.
HOME buying Liberty
Conway-based Home Bancshares, parent company of Centennial Bank, will acquire Jonesboro-based Liberty Bancshares in a $280 million deal.
The deal is the largest in-state banking transaction in the history of Arkansas and makes publicly-traded Home Bancshares the second largest bank holding company headquartered in Arkansas. Nearly 400 Liberty shareholders will receive $250 million in common stock and $30 million in cash as part of the transaction.
The acquisition is expected to close late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter of 2013 after necessary regulatory and shareholder approvals. All told there will be 151 banking locations in Arkansas, Alabama and Florida. The combined banks will have $7.1 billion in assets, $5.6 billion deposits, $4.5 billion in loans, and employ nearly 1,500 workers.
Roby Brock, a freelance journalist based in Little Rock, writes weekly for the Arkansas News Bureau. His weekly television program airs at 10 p.m. Sundays in Central and Northwest Arkansas. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org; his website address is www.talkbusiness.net