News & Media

VIDEO: Cache River Flooding

Craighead County farmer Shannon Davis lost this 80-acre bean field near Bono and another 1,100 acres of rice and soybeans, about 20 percent of his overall acreage, when the nearby Cache River backed up over his farm following more than 10 inches of rain during a one-week period in August.

"It's not uncommon to have a flood event, but it seems like it's getting progressively worse year-in, year-out the last several years," Davis said. 

"It's definitely uncommon to get that much rain in August and more significant, this is the second major flood event we've had this year," he stressed. 

"The big thing on events like this is they compound and develop over time and even though the floodwaters have receded, the effects are long-lasting that are going to play into things down the road after the flood is gone."

Davis and other farmers who want to grow a portion of their crops in the fertile soil of the Cache River bottoms know full well they take a risk because the river is flooding more frequently, leaving them with difficult decisions to make. 

"The big picture is there's a lot of, like a neighbor of mine was talking this morning, he lost crop on one farm three years in a row now," Davis said. 

"Do you keep planting that farm back? and if you start losing a lot of farms that are losing their production because of these situations well then, that's going to affect his bottom line because he doesn't have the revenue stream to keep operating at the same level he's been operating."

Crop farmers have been working under the 2014 Farm Bill the past two years which required them to transition from ad hoc federal disaster payments to crop insurance. 

"It's definitely better than nothing," Davis said. "There's all different levels I guess of crop insurance. And we typically in this area try to buy up as much as we can afford to buy. But at the same time, once you have recurring losses, then that just lowers your coverage level that you can buy up to. 

"So, even though you have crop insurance your coverage is decreasing over time if you have a loss like what we're having here. So you may not be covered at as high a level next year," he explained. 

This part of Davis' farm is less than a mile from the Cache River at Egypt where debris continues to collect under the bridge. 

"Our drainage district, we've cleaned out around the Egypt bridge there on the Cache a year or two ago and some of that's building back up again with the silt and sediment that's being deposited in the area," Davis said. 

"I know there's been a lot of work done on some clean outs up above us. They've implemented a maintenance fee for their drainage districts and that's been talked about here and we're weighing the options. Are the benefits going to justify the assessments and how's that going to play in with a comprehensive plan?" Davis asked. 

"I hear the comments from some people, 'why don't you just leave that ground alone and let it go back to trees?'

"We see that or hear that from a lot of people in different parts of the world that look at what we do and what we're facing. But at the same time, there's a lot of local infrastructure and local communities that depend on the jobs or the revenue that these farms bring in. Not just mine," he said. 

"It's everybody in eastern Arkansas that's in an Ag-related community. If it wasn't for agriculture there's not going to bring any revenue in here. So, it's a bigger scope problem than just one operation dealing with a flooded out soybean field."