Arkansas farmers are bracing for another wet winter. Rainfall totals of up to seven inches in parts of the state are already well above average for February. John Lewis, senior forecaster for the National Weather Service, said this wet winter trend began two years ago.
"2018 was the 9th wettest year we’ve ever had in Arkansas, and that goes back to 1895. And 2019 was the 7th wettest, so you had two top 10 wet years in a row and we're certainly starting off that way this year," Lewis said.
This comes after many of the state's fields stayed too wet for planting throughout all of last year. Jarrod Hardke, a rice agronomist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension office said the rain prevented the planting of over 500,000 acres of rice in 2019. Arkansas produces nearly half of the nation’s rice. Some farmers have relied on "Prevented Planting" insurance to help offset the financial toll of flooded fields, but Hardke said the ongoing wet weather is impacting the mental health of farmers too.
"Ag[riculture] and farming, again extremely difficult in general right now…some of our biggest concerns - farmers, consultants, everyone in Ag – taking very good care of themselves mentally. There's not really typically a lot of open discussion among those that need to talk to somebody. I just would encourage that. Talk to your friends. Make sure they’re doing okay."
Rain is in the forecast again this week, as are below average temperatures, but long-range models from the National Weather Service suggest March could bring a break in the wet weather for Arkansas.