Arkansas Crop Losses Approach $50 Million

Heavy rains in August have cost Arkansas farmers more than $46 million according to preliminary estimates, with rice taking the hardest hit, said Brad Watkins, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture economist.

Watkins said that figure may be as high as $50 million once the fall harvests are finished and the extent of the damage is known.

The preliminary report, drafted by Watkins and Eric Wailes, Distinguished Professor of agricultural economics, is based on crop and harvest reports by Division of Agriculture crop specialists.

Watkins presented the report to a meeting of the Arkansas General Assembly’s Joint Committee of Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development held Sept. 21 at the Division of Agriculture’s Livestock and Forestry Research Station near Batesville.

Watkins said the losses resulted from heavy rains around the third week of August. Many crops were at or near harvest stage when the rains and flooding occurred.

Seven counties — Randolph, Greene, Lawrence, Craighead, Independence, Jackson and White — along the Black, Cache and White rivers were the hardest hit, Watkins said. Those rivers collected rainfall from watershed tributaries and sent it into low areas, submerging many northeast Arkansas fields.

Sustained submergence of fields accompanied by sustained cloudy conditions destroyed many fields and severely damaged crop output and quality from others.

Many rice, soybean, corn and grain sorghum grains were damaged by sprouting in the field, and soybean pods split open. The result was that significant percentages of harvested crops were rated poor or very poor when they arrived at market.

  • Rice was hardest hit, with estimated yield loss of more than 4.1 million bushels amounting to more than $18.6 million in lost value. Of harvested grain, 16 percent is rated poor and 12 percent rated very poor.
  • Soybeans have an estimated yield loss of nearly 1.1 million bushels, amounting to nearly $10.8 million in lost value. Ten percent of harvested soybeans were rated poor and 9 percent very poor.
  • Only Lawrence and Randolph counties reported some flooding of corn and sorghum fields, but rain and cloudy conditions resulted in sprouting damabe to about 80 percent of the sorghum crop. The result is an estimated $5.6 million in lost value.
  • The main impact of the rains on corn was delayed harvest. Other impacts were increased ear molds and greater occurrence of stock rot and lodging. Lodging may become more of a problem as harvest continues.
  • About 5 percent of cotton acres were affected by the August rains. A preliminary estimate of lost value is about $11.5 million.

Watkins said the August rains are believed to have damaged vegetable and melon crops, but reports are incomplete and losses cannot be estimated. One producer reported a complete loss of 500 acres of cantaloupes, Watkins said, losing a market value of $1.5 million.

Other small farmers with cooperative contracts with grocery stores that market local produce have had significant losses and were not able to deliver on their contracts, Watkins said.

Source: Fred Miller, University of Arkansas

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