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Rainfall helped alleviate Arkansas drought conditions, agriculture officials say

Rainfall totals in Arkansas as of Tuesday evening for the preceding 36 hours.
National Weather Service
Rainfall totals in Arkansas as of Tuesday evening for the preceding 36 hours.

Heavy rainfall Arkansas experienced this week was beneficial for parts of the state struggling with drought conditions, but presented challenges to cattle ranchers.

The National Weather Service’s Little Rock office reported some areas of the state saw three to four inches of rain between Monday and Wednesday.

Victor Ford, associate vice president of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the southern region needed the rainfall.

“[The city of] Hope got over two inches; we were in pretty dry conditions there and the last few rains have helped fill in some ponds and that kind of thing,” Ford said. “In terms of the rainfall, that was a good thing, but timing and the amount can be problematic.”

According to the U.S Drought Monitor, Chico County, Ashley County, Bradley County and Union County, which are all in the southeastern part of the state, are classified as D3, meaning extreme drought. The rest of south Arkansas falls under the category of moderate or severe drought. The rest of the state wasn’t experiencing droughts, the map shows.

The heavy rainfall created muddy fields, which delayed farmers who were wanting to plant corn early. Ford said he doesn’t foresee any significant economic impact of the delayed planting.

The rain also presented challenges to cattle ranchers, he said.

“Really the big impact on animal agriculture is the wear and tear on people and equipment who are having to deal with the mud, water conditions and bad roads. They have to move cows out of danger and the time involved with that can be a problem,” Ford said.

In advance of the storm, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had alerted farmers in the southern region of the country that inclement weather was expected. Robert Coats, an economist with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, said it’s good that the federal department is being proactive in warning farmers of these weather conditions. In an email, Coats said weather is often a challenge for farmers each year.

Ronak Patel is a reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.