Friday, May 05, 2017

TOP STORY >> Area farmers reeling from floods

Leader senior staff writer

While flooding and other storm effects have battered 937,000 acres of Arkansas farmland, with losses as high as $65 million, Lonoke County-area farmers are faring better than many, according to Lonoke County Extension Service Chief Keith Perkins.

Of that acreage, crops on two-thirds are expected to survive if no more rain falls, according to Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “I’m being conservative. There’s no sugar-coating it,” he said.

Hardke said rice was the hardest hit, with nearly 90 percent of the anticipated 1.2- million acre crop already in the ground. Seventy-one percent had emerged.

The mid-week rains and flooding on fields already saturated or under standing water is likely to require the replanting of thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of acres, according to Perkins.


“In my little community, we got 500 acres under water in rice,” said Lonoke County farmer Dow Brantley. “I think it will be OK, but it will be early next week before water gets off.”

“We won’t know till all the water goes down,” he said Friday morning.

Brantley said farmers in the northeast part of the state got hit hardest. “In our county, we don’t have big rivers like our neighbors in northeast Arkansas,” he said.

In Lonoke County, Keo and Snake Island were two of the hardest-hit areas, Perkins said.

“We lost all our cotton, about 400 acres, because of the continuous cold weather. Some farmers, including me, will lose two or three percent of our corn planted in the low end of the field,” Brantley said. “We’ve not been able to do any field work in a couple of weeks.’


He said like him, most farmers probably don’t have crop insurance, but they have asked the governor to declare a state of emergency so that the USDA can make low-interest loans to farmers.

About 83,200 acres of soybeans, 47,900 acres of corn and 9,300 acres of cotton may have been lost, Hardke said.

Soybeans were projected at 3.5 million acres this year and were 45 percent planted and 32 percent emerged. Ninety-seven percent of a projected 600,000 acres of corn was planted and 89 percent emerged. Cotton, projected to total 500,000 acres, was 15 percent planted and 5 percent emerged, Hardke said.

“Anything that’s still covered in water at the end of next week is a loss, and farmers need to make preparations for it to be gone and be ready to take action whenever it dries.

“If it’s still wet at the end of next week, it’ll be June before it will be dry enough to replant,” he said.

The April 28-30 storms spawned tornadoes in Lonoke, Boone, Drew, White and Woodruff counties.

Some areas in Arkansas saw more than 10 inches of rain during the weekend, prompting flash flood warnings across the state.

Making a living on the farm is not easy.

According to Hardke, row-crop farmers suffered an estimated $40 million to $50 million loss last year due to heavy rains. Beef producers endured a $128 million loss from drought in 2012 and farmers suffered an estimated $335 million in losses for flooding in 2011, Hardke said.

For now, it’s a waiting game, Perkins said.