Arkansas Agriculture

National Weather Service

Late summer usually means hot, dry weather in Arkansas, but according to National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Cook, predictions for the middle of  this month include highs in the 80s and the poential for heavy rain, "which is a little bit unusual." While rainfall is helping the state avoid wildfires, it's a mixed bag for agriculture industry.

The Arkansas State Plant Board welcomes a new director on Monday.  Butch Calhoun will lead the 101-year-old agency that regulates agricultural policies in the state.  It's the same board that made the closely-watched decision last fall to ban the herbicide dicamba.  Calhoun, who's a native of Des Arc, spoke with Ann Kenda of Arkansas Public Media about his thoughts going into this high-profile position.

He takes over from Terry Walker, who announced his retirement last month.

Counties in yellow are under "moderate" danger for wildfires as of July 2.
Arkansas Forestry Commission

Rain is in the forecast for much of Arkansas for July 4th, but the potential for wildfires still exists.

Meteorologist Jeff Hood with the National Weather Service said showers should pass through before the evening fireworks shows begin.

"It doesn't look like a rainout, but some parts of the state are going to be dealing with scattered showers and thunderstorms," said Hood. 

Mary Hightower / University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

With talk of tit-for-tat and trade wars dominating national business headlines, the impact of retaliatory tariffs on American products and commodities is giving some Arkansas agriculture officials pause.

After hearing about a dozen complaints from farmers, growers and applicators around the state, the Arkansas Agriculture Department has issued a statement urging strict adherence to the label instructions for loyant, a newly-released rice herbicide made by Dow AgroSciences.

State Agriculture Department spokesperson Adriane Barnes said the decision to issue the advisory was made out of concern for soybeans, which are still early in the growing season.

Wikimedia Commons

A Trump administration official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture came to Little Rock Wednesday to announce both new water infrastructure projects and the latest efforts to curb the growing opioid epidemic.

Anne Hazlett, who serves as Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, gave the keynote speech at a rural development conference in Little Rock Wednesday.

At the food pantry in Cherry Valley in rural Northeast Arkansas, clients start lining up hours before its 10am opening.  The pantry is open every Tuesday for two hours, unlike other pantries that open once or twice a month.

“In this area, they just can’t go a whole month without us,” said director Joan Ball.  

Ball and other advocates for the poor worry that business will pick up at pantries and soup kitchens if food stamp work requirements drafted as part of the 2018 Farm Bill end up becoming law.  Ball said the last two weeks of the month are already the busiest as people who’ve already spent their food stamps seek additional ways to feed themselves or their families.

Dicamba damage
University of Arkansas

Arkansas is asking the state's top court to halt a judge's order allowing six farmers to use an herbicide that was banned by state regulators following complaints that it drifted onto crops and caused damage.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office on Thursday asked the state Supreme Court to stay Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox's ruling exempting the farmers from the state Plant Board's rule banning dicamba's use. The panel has banned dicamba's use from April 16 through October 31 this year. Rutledge on Wednesday filed notice she was appealing Fox's ruling.

Picture of a tractor on a farm
Creative Commons

Corn and rice planting is underway in the Natural State but it’s a slow go in Northeast Arkansas. Rains and cold temperatures have stymied farmers’ efforts to get seeds into the ground, Craighead County extension agent Branon Thiesse told Talk Business & Politics. Less than 400 of the estimated 338,000 agriculture acres in the county have been planted, he said.

“We need to see some warm weather to warm the soil. … They (farmers) are getting concerned,” he said.

Dicamba damage
University of Arkansas

Controversy has raged within the Arkansas farming community for years about the use of the herbicide, dicamba, and its impacts. The Arkansas State Plant Board allowed one formulation, Engenia dicamba, to be used during the 2017 growing season.

But after the board received numerous damage-related complaints from the herbicide drifting onto non-dicamba row crop fields, gardens, and other vegetation, the board banned dicamba in July 2017, and later opted to ban it in 2018.

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