James R. Baker
A fifth-generation cattleman, Jim Baker has spent his adult life advancing the state’s cattle industry. From 1983 – 1995 he served on the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission when the reproductive disease brucellosis was threatening the industry. He represented the state auction markets for 11 years and was a part of the effort to eradicate the disease and move Arkansas to brucellosis “free” status.
Jim Baker was elected Faulkner County Judge in 2014 and this is the sixth career he has pursued. Raised in Pike County, Baker joined 4-H as a boy and has been a member for more than 60 years. He credits 4-H for giving him to be involved in programs that “motivated me to go to college and prepared me for life.”
From 1988 – 1995 Baker was a member of the Arkansas Farm Bureau board of directors, and was also active with the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association. He became good friends with Tommy Lewis, owner of Lewis Livestock Auction in Conway and was general manager of the auction from 1983 – 1994. During this time he helped it become the second largest auction in the southeast serving 450 – 500 sellers per week. Prior to that he worked for Central Arkansas Production Credit Association and serviced the needs of 700 farm and ranch customers in Faulkner and Van Buren counties out of his Conway office.
But that changed in 1994 when President Bill Clinton appointed Baker to become the first administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a post Baker held for 6½ years. He oversaw 840 employees and had a “front-row seat” on Capitol Hill while managing an agency that set grain standards and regulated livestock and poultry marketing in the U.S.
When asked what he is most proud of he said it was being named, Man of the Year in Arkansas Agriculture by Progressive Farmer magazine in 1999. “I was 52-years-old and at the time the youngest man to receive that honor. I am especially proud of that.”