Sen. Mark Pryor was a no-show at the Arkansas Farm Bureau (ARFB) candidate forum on Tuesday, instead sending the influential farmers’ group a three-minute video address in which he accused his Republican opponent of ignoring Arkansas farmers.
The forum, which is held every four years and drew about 100 Farm Bureau members from across the state, is a routine campaign stop for Arkansas congressional and statewide office candidates.
Pryor’s Republican Senate challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton, attended Tuesday’s forum and defended his opposition to a version of the 2013 Farm Bill. The Farm Bureau supports the legislation, which includes agricultural reform and farming subsidies.
Farming issues have played a prominent role in the Arkansas race, with Pryor highlighting his vote for the 2013 Farm Bill.
Pryor said in his video address that Cotton "turned a deaf ear on farmers and families" by voting against the bill.
He also accused his Republican challenger of being "more interested in listening to the Washington special interests funding his campaign" than listening to Arkansas farmers.
ARFB spokesperson Gregg Patterson told the Washington Free Beacon he did not know why Pryor was unable to attend the Farm Bureau forum in person. The Senate is currently out of session. Invitations for the event were sent out to candidates in late December.
"[The forum] gives us a great opportunity to have some personal contact with the candidates so as to keep them aware of what the agricultural sector issues are," said Patterson. "We see it as being a very beneficial opportunity for our membership to meet candidates and at least hear what they have to say."
Pryor’s office told an Arkansas newspaper that he was campaigning in southwest Arkansas on Tuesday.
"A lot of us were disappointed that he didn’t show up so we could ask questions try to talk to him personally since he’s a big supporter of Farm Bureau," said Tommy Sorrells, a 40-year Farm Bureau member from Garland County who supports Cotton in the race.
Both Sorrells and Patterson said the candidate turnout at the event was high.
A Pryor spokesperson did not respond to questions about his whereabouts on Tuesday.