Friday night line | Arkansas Blog

Friday night line

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Let the fireworks begin. Closeouts:

* BREAKING: Notice arrives of a $750 million settlement between Germany-based Bayer AG and U.S. rice farmers over genetically engineered rice that contaminated rice crops. This on top of earlier settlements in the case. Said the Arkansas Rice Federation:

The settlement offer provides an opportunity for Bayer to compensate the thousands of Arkansas rice farmers who suffered significant financial losses because of the unintentional release of Bayer’s Liberty Link 601 genetically engineered rice into the commercial long-grain rice supply.

As more details become available, we will update them on our website at arkansasricefarmers.org. You can also visit USA Rice Federation at usarice.com for additional information.

* A REPUBLICAN IS: I guess it's worked for them, but the rigid self-identification of what being a Republican means still strikes me when I encounter it. For example, the state Republicans sent out an e-mail touting their nominee in the House District 54 race as the only "pro-life" candidate in the race. You must oppose a woman's right to medical autonomy over her body to be a Republican. Period. Polls still show a majority of Arkansans want abortion to remain legal — if rare and with many conditions. Not Republicans.

* BLAME YARNELL'S ON HUCKABEE: The Republicans want to blame Mike Beebe for the closure of Yarnell's Ice Cream in Searcy. Maybe they should blame Mike Huckabee — at least for the $3.5 million or so in public debt Yarnell's left behind. The ice cream maker closed still owing $1.96 million on a $2.5 million Arkansas Development Finance Authority bond issue to prop up the failing company, an obligation dating back to the state's taking a bank off the hook for a Yarnell's loan in 2000, the Huckabee era. Yarnell's also owed $123,000 on bonds issued by Arkansas Economic Development Commission in 1994 and $1.45 million on a loan from the city of Searcy. The Searcy loan was a pass-through of state grant money in 2001 (a fairly unusual use of block grant money, which rarely goes directly into the treasury of private enterprises), so the state is the real soakee. The loan was assigned back to the state AEDC by Searcy.

These dang government giveaways and stimulus programs. And so that a private lender wouldn't have exposure. Where's the Tea Party? Where's the outrage? Company assets — mostly an ice cream plant no other manufacturer has wanted to buy — can be sold to satisfy some of the debt. Who stands where in line on the various debts? I couldn't pin that down Friday afternoon in calls to ADFA and AEDC. The company paid back barely $600,000 of $4 million in loans over a 10-year period, not exactly robust performance. (I described the Yarnell family as having Republican tendencies, based on some federal campaign contributions, but of course they favored local favorite son Mike Beebe, a Democrat, as well.)

A small piece of good news for Yarnell's workers. Nestle is hiring drivers who worked at a West Memphis office, but apparently isn't buying the facility.

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