Arkansas Agriculture

The National Weather Service

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.

Sarah Kellogg / KUAR News

Farmers in the Jefferson County area had the opportunity to hear advice and predictions on the 2020 planting season during a crop production meeting held by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.  

Beginning in early January, the Division of Agriculture has held production meetings at its county extensions across the state. This particular meeting, held Wednesday in Pine Bluff is the 16th so far, with twelve more to go this February. It focused on corn, soybeans and rice as well as presentations on weeds and insects. 

Picture of a tractor on a farm
Creative Commons

A “Phase 1” trade deal was signed Wednesday by President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He that reduces some tariffs between the countries and seeks to boost U.S. agri exports to China. Critics say the deal avoids the hard trade issues between the two countries.

Following are some of the items in the newly signed deal.

An example of a farmer harvesting soybeans.
Creative Commons

The last two growing seasons have been some of the toughest in decades for Arkansas farmers, but a glimmer of hope met many as the harvest season rapidly came to a close in 2019.

The state’s top crop, soybeans, was the most-watched. Farmers saw soybean acreage plummet in 2019 by more than 590,000 acres to end at about 2.6 million, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

State regulators have voted not to increase restrictions surrounding the use of a controversial herbicide that has been blamed for widespread damage to crops and other plants.

Members of the Arkansas State Plant Board met Wednesday to discuss new proposed regulations on dicamba for the 2020 growing season. All but one member voted to not require farmers who use the chemical on genetically modified cotton and soybean fields to report spraying records and real-time GPS coordinates to an online database.

Flooding Lawrence County Farms agriculture
Arkansas Farm Bureau / Twitter

Irregular weather patterns this past year both harmed and aided Arkansas farmers in their planting and harvesting. 

Large amounts of rain significantly delayed planting for all Arkansas crops, including rice, corn and soybeans. Jarrod Hardke, rice extension agronomist for the University of Arkansas’s Rice Research and Extension Center, said this year’s rice planting process was the slowest in 25 years.

Samantha Hagler feeds one of her Nigerian Dwarf goats. Hagler is one Arkansas teen that uses much of her time and resources to participate in livestock showing.
Sarah Kellogg / KUAR

Over 470,000 people visited the Arkansas State fair this year, with many coming for the food and rides. However, one thing that attracts the attention of many competitive youth in the state is livestock showings.

Last week at the state fair, Future Farmers of America students, members of agricultural clubs, and independent farmers competed against one another to show premier animals from around the state. Many competitors are young people who sacrifice their time and resources to take part in livestock showing.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Members of the Arkansas State Plant Board have approved new restrictions on a weedkiller that’s been blamed for widespread crop damage.

At the board's quarterly meeting Tuesday, members voted to require growers who use dicamba on genetically modified cotton and soybeans to keep GPS records of spraying, and to file spraying information with the board's online registry.

The board had originally considered lengthening the time period when dicamba can be sprayed by six days, but opted to keep the spraying cutoff date at May 25.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visited Arkansas Wednesday to sign an agreement between state and federal forestry partners and to speak with local leaders in politics and agriculture.

Joined by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Republican U.S. Reps. French Hill, Bruce Westerman and Rick Crawford, Perdue signed a Shared Stewardship agreement between the U.S. Forest Service, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the state’s Department of Agriculture and Game and Fish Commission.

Sarah Kellogg - KUAR News / KUAR

Trade discussions between the United States and China resumed Tuesday months after talks initially dissolved. However, the lack of a deal, over one year into the trade war continues to leave Arkansas farmers with a surplus of crops and fewer vendors to sell them to. This combined with an above average amount of rainfall has led to a bad couple of years for farmers without a permanent solution in sight.

Nature In The Natural State: Carolina Chickadees

Jul 29, 2019

Is your yard a food desert? I’m not asking whether you have a garden. I’m asking whether your yard supports native species of animals. Let’s take the chickadee as an example, because it has been studied recently. Carolina chickadees are native to Arkansas and live here year-round.

If you have a feeder in your yard you probably see them. But did you know that they eat insects as well as seeds? In fact, they must have insects to feed their young, or their young will die. And here’s where your yard comes into it.

Nature In The Natural State: Hummingbirds

Jul 29, 2019

Who doesn’t love hummingbirds? The hummingbird is the only bird that can fly backwards and even upside down, and they have a larger brain to body ratio than any other animal, including us. The ruby throat-ed hummingbird is the only species native to Arkansas. They arrive in March, raise two broods, and leave in September.

Nature In The Natural State: Monarch Butterflies

Jul 29, 2019

Have you ever seen a distinctive orange, black, and white monarch butterfly? April brings monarchs north to Arkansas from Mexico. A female will lay a single egg on the underside of a milkweed leaf. The caterpillar that hatches will molt five times before it forms a chrysalis. Out will hatch a butterfly, who will mate and continue the next part of the migration north, as far as Canada.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Inside a squat, brick building set among roughly 800 acres of row crops, a mix of scientists, local growers and Arkansas Plant Board members prepare to get a look at an all-too-familiar problem.

They'll be touring the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture's Northeast Research and Extension Center in Keiser, near the banks of the Mississippi River. Plant Board Chair Greg Hay prepares the group for what they're about to see.

An example of a farmer harvesting soybeans.
Creative Commons

Storms associated with Hurricane Barry are posing problems for Arkansas farmers. Agricultural officials had concerns that heavy rain and winds would damage rice crops, but are now more concerned about damage to soybean crops. Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, says weather over the weekend was not as damaging to rice crops as originally feared.

National Weather Service

The remnants of Hurricane Barry are forecast to move into Arkansas on Sunday. Agriculture officials are concerned the heavy rainfall could be detrimental to the state’s rice crop, which has already been hampered by a wet spring and recent hot weather.

Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, says the crop is extremely vulnerable at this point and that rain could disrupt pollination. 

An example of a farmer harvesting soybeans.
Creative Commons

Between President Trump's tariffs on China and an unusually rainy Spring, soybean farmers in Arkansas are bracing for less product and less profit.

Governor Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he is "anxious for success" as the U.S. negotiates with China over trade tariffs. The escalating trade war has rattled markets, with soybean prices falling to their lowest levels in a decade.

"We’re praying that the president will be successful in these negotiations," Hutchinson said in an interview with KUAR News.

Jacqueline Froelich / KUAF

The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission would be the sole state agency responsible for regulating livestock waste under a bill passed by the state Senate Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, would shift the responsibility of regulating liquid animal waste to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.

ShareAlike 4.0 International / Wikimedia Commons

Arkansas is expected to get a break from an unusually wet winter, but it may not be enough of a break for farmers.

Some Arkansas counties have received two to three times their average amount of rainfall over the last six months. The frequent and heavy rains have made it difficult for many farmers to work their land. Rice Agronomist Jarrod Hardke with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service says the return of cold weather could offset any relief from the rain.

Loretta Williams

Following months of consideration, the Arkansas Plant Board has voted to loosen its ban on the controversial herbicide dicamba.

In an eight-hour meeting Wednesday, the board voted to move the cutoff date for spraying the herbicide from April 15 to May 25. A group of farmers had been seeking to push the date back to as late as June 15, but at the outset of Wednesday's meeting board members had been considering May 20 as a compromise.

Betsy Ward, president and CEO of USA Rice Federation, speaking at the Arkansas Rice Annual Meeting Tuesday in Stuttgart.
Arkansas Farm Bureau

The Arkansas Rice Annual Meeting took place Tuesday in Stuttgart. It’s a key event for industry and government leaders to discuss the state of agriculture.

Organizers say about 400 people attended the meeting, included several top state officials, state senators and state representatives.

David Wildy, a prominent Arkansas farmer, in a field of soybeans that were damaged by dicamba.
Dan Charles / NPR News

The Arkansas Agriculture Department has opened a 30-day public comment period regarding proposed regulations for the use of dicamba. The herbicide has been blamed in recent years for extensive crop damage after drifting on non-resistant vegetation. A public hearing has also been scheduled for next month.

Jars of local honey from Crooked Creek Bee Co. will disappear from Arkansas stores following a decision from the state's largest commercial beekeeper to end its retail operations amid concerns over the weedkiller dicamba.

Owner Richard Coy described his customers as disappointed but understanding about the decision, which he announced on Facebook on New Year's Day.  His honey was sold in some 80 grocery and natural food stores around the state.

U.S. Senator John Boozman in the Republican Party of Arkansas headquarters in 2016 during a campaign interview.

UPDATE: By an 87-13 vote, the U.S. Senate approved the new farm bill on Tuesday, with Arkansas's two Republican senators split on the measure. Sen. John Boozman supported the bill, while Sen. Tom Cotton was among 12 members of his party voting against it.

The bill now advances to the House. The legislation allocates billions of dollars in sibsidies to farmers and guides national policies for the next five years.

Dicamba damage
University of Arkansas

An Arkansas panel has given initial approval to allowing restricted use of an herbicide that was banned following complaints that it drifted onto crops and caused damage.

The Arkansas Plant Board on Thursday approved new restrictions for the use of dicamba. The new restrictions prohibit dicamba's in-crop use from May 21 to Oct. 31. The rule includes a one-mile buffer zone around research stations, organic crops, specialty crops, non-tolerant dicamba crops and other sensitive crops for applications from April 16 to May 20.

Delta Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Republican and Democratic candidates for Congress and Governor offered differing views on President Trump’s tariffs, immigration and other issues during appearances Thursday before the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus.

The event brought rural advocates from across the region to the Clinton Library in Little Rock. Participating were Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill and his opponent, state Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock; Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford and his Democratic opponent, Chintan Desai; and Gov. Asa Hutchinson and his Democratic opponent, Jared Henderson.

App Aims to Ease Harvest Fire Concerns

Oct 21, 2018

When Arkansas State University assistant professor of digital design Joe Ford noticed that both he and his 3-year-old daughter were getting ill from smoke every autumn, he started wondering whether his design skills could help.

Ford teamed up with associate professor of physics Ross Carroll to build an agricultural burning app that helps farmers measure wind speed and direction and other factors to quickly determine whether a burn is safe or should wait for another day.

In Arkansas, the burning of residue from a row crop is legal, but the smoke draws complaints from communities about health risks, the distinctive odor and temporarily blocked highways.  In November, the rice industry offered voluntary smoke management guidelines to help ease the tension between communities and farmers. 

An example of a farmer harvesting soybeans.
Creative Commons

Repeated rainfall has Arkansas soybean growers behind schedule in harvesting their crop. Farmers are behind the past five year average of having 60 percent of their crop gathered by this time of year. Currently the soybean harvest is at 44 percent among Arkansas growers according to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Jeremy Ross, a soybean expert with the university, says farmers are roughly 26 percent behind this year compared to the previous year.

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.