LITTLE ROCK — With more than 1 million acres
of Arkansas cropland under water, the impact of flooding to Arkansas
crops and forage is expected to top $500 million dollars, according to
preliminary research by ag economists at the Arkansas Farm Bureau.
A total of 63 counties in Arkansas have been declared
disaster areas as a result of storms and flooding that have ravaged the
state since late April. As the state’s largest industry segment,
agriculture annually accounts for $16 billion of Arkansas’ economy, so
any significant impact will have effects far beyond the farmers’ and
ranchers’ direct losses.
“We are seeing flood levels never seen before,” said Randy
Veach, a cotton, rice and soybean farmer from Manila (Mississippi
County), who is president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau. “The effect to
our state’s commodity crops is staggering, and the entire impact can’t
be adequately determined for several months.”
Veach noted the Farm Bureau’s estimate does not include costs
to repair infrastructure, farm equipment, loss of grain in storage
bins, and repairs to farmland, which could reach well into the tens of
millions of dollars.
“We aren’t likely to see significant activity in these
flooded areas until June 1, at the earliest,” said Warren Carter,
director of commodity and regulatory affairs for Arkansas Farm Bureau.
“There is an awful lot of water that still has to move through our
river systems, and significant drying will have to occur before our
farmers can begin the difficult work of reworking their ground.
“There is no way to overstate the impact of this to those affected. It has been devastating.”
Carter said he expects the loss in rice acreage to near 300,000
acres, resulting in a loss of $300 million in rice production.
Arkansas is the largest rice-producing state in the nation, annually
accounting for about half of the nation’s rice crop.
Carter noted that much of the loss of the commodity crops
could be offset by plantings of other crops. Soybean acreage, as an
example, is expected to skyrocket, because the planting window for that
crop is significantly wider than for rice, cotton, corn and grain
sorghum. However, late-planted crops are susceptible to a number of
additional risks, including early frosts, hurricane season, insect and
disease issues and other problems. This makes the replacement value of
those crops difficult to assess.
Arkansas was projected to plant 1.3 million acres of rice
in 2011. Some of the rice crop already planted could survive the
floods, though reduced yield and quality issues will likely limit the
value of that crop further.
“Forty percent of the national rice crop likely won’t be
planted this year,” Carter said, citing flooding issues in the bootheel
area of Missouri and Louisiana, two other sizable rice-producing
Carter also noted the impact to the winter wheat crop that
is nearing harvest. Arkansas farmers had planted roughly 550,000 acres
this year, and the Farm Bureau estimates that 120,000 acres of that
wheat will be abandoned due to the flooding, resulting in a loss of $40
million that won’t be replaced by other crops.
Other significant losses are forecast for cotton, with
reduced yield losses projected at $66 million; plus another $35 million
in added costs to get this year’s cotton crop in the ground, including
fertilizer, fuel, herbicides, etc. Additionally, a loss of roughly $37
million is being projected in forage, hay and fencing. The Farm Bureau
estimates roughly 6,000 miles of fencing will require repair or
“I know the resiliency of Arkansas farmers,” said Veach.
“They are unnaturally optimistic. They accept risk that most people
would not begin to deal with. And while I expect Arkansas agriculture
to overcome this, the effects of this disaster will be felt for years