R. Marion Berry
Despite earning a pharmacy degree from the University of Arkansas, R. Marion Berry, 71, always has had farming in his blood and used practices learned on the farm to become an influential political figure in Arkansas agriculture. The Arkansas County rice and soybean farmer from Gillett would eventually travel to Washington, D.C. to promote agriculture worldwide.
Governor Bill Clinton appointed Berry to the Arkansas Soil and Water Conservation Commission where he served from 1986 to 1994. When Clinton won the White House, he brought Berry to Washington with him, appointing him as his special assistant for Agricultural Trade and Food Assistance, and as a presidential adviser on the White House Domestic Policy Council during Clinton’s first term. In these roles, Berry made sure President Clinton was well versed on agricultural issues affecting Arkansas and the rest of the country. His efforts resulted in policy implementation promoting agriculture, trade and rural prosperity.
In 1996, Berry won election to the United States House of Representatives for Arkansas’ 1st Congressional District, winning by a small margin. But in the next six elections, Berry would win with close to two-thirds of the vote or more. During this time, he was a major advocate for lifting the trade ban on Cuba, so Arkansas rice farmers could regain trade opportunities. Berry was a member of multiple committees and a champion for agriculture throughout his House tenure; among those being on the House Agriculture Committee, where he helped write the 2002 farm bill. Berry served in Congress until 2011.