Rich Hillman of Carlisle was elected as Arkansas Farm Bureau’s new president Friday (Dec. 6) at the group’s 85th annual convention at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. He succeeds Randy Veach, who announced earlier this year he would not seek another term after 11 years of leading the agriculture advocacy organization.
Hillman, 56, served the past 11 years as Arkansas Farm Bureau’s vice president. He is the nonprofit group’s 11th president since its creation in 1935. He is a sixth-generation farmer whose main crops are rice, soybeans and wheat. Hillman and his wife Tina have two grown children, Collin and Caroline.
“I’m very humbled and excited,” Hillman said in a statement. “Arkansas farmers and ranchers are vital to this state, vital. And we have to make sure they’re successful for our state to be successful.”
Mike Freeze of Little Rock was chosen as Arkansas Farm Bureau’s vice president. Freeze, 67, operates a fish farm in Keo. He and his wife Betty have two grown daughters, Rachael and Kelly.
“It’s a huge honor,” Freeze said in a statement. “We’re all in this together, and we all have a lot of the same issues. Our policy is what’s so important. It serves as a map or guideline for us to get change done to get our farms more profitable and to keep our environment clean. It’s good to have a road map.”
Also at Friday’s meeting, the board elected Dan Wright of Waldron as secretary/treasurer. Joe Christian of Jonesboro, secretary/treasurer for the past six years, did not seek re-election.
Wright, 59, has served on the board for five years and raises poultry and grows hay. He and his wife, Belinda, have two grown children, Dustin and Megan, and five grandchildren.
The voting delegates also re-elected five board members to new two-year terms. They include: Sherry Felts, Joiner; Jon Carroll, Moro; Gene Pharr, Lincoln; Joe Thrash, Houston; and Terry Laster of Strong. Also elected was a new board member, Chase Groves of Garland City (Miller Co.). Groves raises cattle and operates a custom fertilizer application and hay baling business.
Voting delegates also addressed a range of state and federal policy issues including positions favoring feral hog eradication; reinforced support for statewide, comprehensive broadband availability; support policy to protect private land within the levee system; support a more stringent process for public referrals on ballot initiatives; and support for removal of burdensome regulations to ensure access to necessary foreign farm labor.
Arkansas Farm Bureau is a nonprofit, private advocacy organization of almost 190,000 families throughout the state working to improve farm and rural life.
Hillman spoke to the general assembly at the Arkansas Farm Bureau conference. A video of his remarks can be viewed below.