B.R. Wells inducted to Agriculture Hall of Fame
By Fred Miller
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Jan. 4, 2017
- The late Bobby R. Wells will be among five individuals inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame in March
- Wells worked for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture for 30 years
- He was a world-renowned expert on rice production, nutrition and soil fertility
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The late Bobby R. Wells, a world-renowned rice expert and University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture researcher, will be among five individuals inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame in March.
The induction recognizes service and leadership that have brought distinction to Arkansas’ largest business sector.
In addition to Wells, the new Hall of Fame class includes includes forester Allen Bedell of Hot Springs, former state senator Neely Cassady of Nashville, rice farmer Gary Sebree of Stuttgart and poultry company executive Mark Simmons of Siloam Springs.
The group will be honored at the 29th annual induction luncheon at 11:30, March 3 at Little Rock’s Embassy Suites Hotel.
“What a great cross-section of Arkansas agriculture to be selected for the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame,” said Butch Calhoun of Des Arc, chairman of the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame committee and former Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture. “The collective impact of these five are felt in every part of our state.
“I have said this before, and it bears repeating; agriculture is one of the great success stories of our state. What a privilege to see these great advocates of agriculture be recognized.”
The new selections will bring to 158 the number of honorees inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame.
Wells was internationally respected for his expertise in rice production, with emphasis on rice nutrition and soil fertility. He joined the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture in 1966 and spent his first 16 years with the division at the Rice Research and Extension Center near Stuttgart.
In 1982 Wells moved to the division’s department of agronomy at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville to continue his research and teaching. He was promoted to University Professor and appointed department head in 1993.
Wells was a highly regarded professor and a mentor to many graduate students. He developed an upper-level class in rice production and taught it for many years.
Wells was very active in collaborative, interdisciplinary research. He worked with the Rice Technical Working Group and served as its chairman and secretary. He edited the division’s Arkansas Rice Research Studies journal from its inception in 1991 until his death in 1996. That year, the publication was named in his memory.
Bedellwas a long-time forester for Georgia-Pacific in Fordyce and also owned two whole-tree chipping operations, Circle B. Logging and Quality Stand Density Control, Inc. He is a former chairman of the Arkansas ForestryCommission, a past president of the Arkansas Forestry Association and currently serves as the forestry representative on the Arkansas Department of Agriculture board. Bedell helped start the Log a Load For Kids program, an annual campaign that raises money for patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, which has raised more than $8 million from Arkansas loggers. He also was one of the founding organizers of the Arkansas Timber Producers Association.
Cassady was a driving force for the poultry industry in southwest Arkansas, taking over his father’s hatchery at the age of 18 and expanding it into a vertically integrated poultry company. He built and sold two such companies that continue today as part of Pilgrim’s and Tyson Foods. He was elected to the Arkansas Senate in 1982 and served the people of southwest Arkansas for 14 years, where he was a staunch advocate for agricultural issues. Cassady was president of the Arkansas Poultry Federation (1973-74), on the Tyson Foods board of directors (1974-2001), and a long-time member of the Central Baptist College board of trustees.
Sebree, a third-generation rice farmer,spent 43 years as a farmer representative on the Producers Rice Mill board of directors, 24 of those as chairman (1990- 2014), a time of phenomenal growth for Producers and the Arkansas rice industry. A farmer-owned cooperative, Producers grew from 956 members in 1971 when Sebree first joined the board, to a high of 2,637 members in 2013. During that span, member receipts increased more than tenfold, from 6.2 million bushels in 1971 to 65.5 million bushels in 2011, while sales grew from $17.5 million in 1971 to a high of $568.5 million in 2013. He was on the first Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board (1979-86), chairman of the USA Rice Producers Group (2000-2002) and chairman of the USA Rice Federation (2002-2004).
Simmons has been chairman of the board for Simmons Foods since 1987. He first joined the family business in 1968 after graduating from the University of Arkansas. He was named president in 1974, following the death of his father. Under his direction, Simmons Foods has grown into one of the nation’s largest privately held broiler-processing companies and the largest private-label wet pet food manufacturer in North American. The company has grown from a single plant with roughly $20 million in sales and 350 employees in 1974 to approximately $1.4 billion in sales and nearly 6,000 employees in more than 20 facilities across North America. Simmons was a founding member of the Northwest Arkansas Council, serves on the board of trustees at John Brown University, and is a board member of the Walton Family Charitable Support Trust.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service