Community Spotlight: Stuttgart, Arkansas

August 1, 2007

If you’ve eaten rice one night this week for dinner, there’s a 50-50 chance it came from Arkansas, and there’s a high likelihood it passed through a small town you’ve probably never heard of…unless you’re an avid hunter.

Stuttgart, Arkansas, is commonly called “the duck and rice capital of the world” because the town produces or mills a large chunk of Arkansas’ rice, which coincidently makes up half the nation’s supply. And all that tasty rice attracts ducks and sportsman from across the country.

Home to both the World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest and two of America’s largest farmer-owned cooperatives, Riceland Foods and Producers Rice Mill, Stuttgart’s 9,700 residents depend on ducks and rice for their livelihoods.

They also depend on a strong farm policy like the one passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 27. That’s why Stuttgart residents, like Gary Sebree, have been so active on Capitol Hill during the farm bill debate.

“My main concern is that some legislator from urban America will cut big holes in the farm safety net,” Sebree said. “Without a safety net, there’s no rice, and without rice, there are no ducks.”

Sebree and the other Arkansas rice producers are pleased with the House farm bill because they say it maintained the farm safety net and contained additional environmental measures for wildlife.

This bill now moves to the Senate for consideration, where the people of Stuttgart hope it will be quickly adopted and signed into law.

After all, the duck calling championships are coming up in November-a month after the current farm bill expires-and the annual festival would be a lot less festive with a town full of disappointed people.