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Good choice.

THE NAMING OF RICHARD "Dick" Bell to be Arkansas' first agriculture secretary was a good choice. It was a natural choice.

We can think of no one more qualified to start the new state Agriculture Department off on the right foot.

Bell, the former CEO of Riceland Foods Inc., led that farmer-owned cooperative to become the largest rice miller and marketer in the nation, and in the process, Arkansas became the largest rice producer, turning out nearly half of all the rice consumed in the U.S.

Although now 71, Bell also brings to the table the highly valuable experience he gained from serving as an assistant secretary of agriculture for international affairs and commodity programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. He received the USDA's Distinguished Service Award for expanding U.S. agriculture trade and food aid during the early 1970s.

In making his choice known, Gov. Mike Huckabee said, "He's one of the most highly respected business people in this state, but among agricultural interests he really has no peer. If we looked from one end of the country to the other, we would not be able to find someone who has the experience, the expertise and, most of all, the love of Arkansas that Dick Bell has."

Bell, who retired from Riceland last year, is charged with organizing the Agriculture Department that was created by the Arkansas Legislature this year. The department is an umbrella organization for several existing agencies and boards that regulate and promote Arkansas agriculture, such as the Plant Board, the Forestry Commission and the Livestock & Poultry Commission. While those agencies will remain, the secretary of agriculture will coordinate their administrative functions and lead the efforts to promote farm production in the state.
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 22, 2005
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