Arkansas Agriculture

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack / Minnesota Public Radio

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is traveling to Arkansas this week amid questions about the nation's farm policies.

Vilsack is scheduled to visit Little Rock on Wednesday to talk about the need for Congress to pass the nation's farm bill.

The farm bill sets policy for farm subsidies, food stamps and other rural development projects. The fight over renewing the farm bill has centered on cuts to the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program.

Members of the House and Senate are set to begin negotiations on the five-year, roughly $500 billion bill this week.


Federal agriculture officials say Arkansas' corn harvest is complete while harvesting of sorghum and rice is almost done.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service says 98 percent of the sorghum harvest is complete, along with 92 percent of the rice harvest.

According to the statistics service, 100 percent of cotton bolls have opened and 54 percent are harvested. The Division of Agriculture at the University of Arkansas says the cotton crop is a full week behind the typical pace.

Soybeans are 60 percent harvested.

Leading candidates for the U.S. Senate and governor's races in Arkansas are scheduled to speak at a conference in Memphis.

Two-term incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat, and the Republican opponent for his Senate seat, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, will speak Friday at the Delta Grassroots Caucus at the Agricenter in east Memphis.

Also scheduled to speak are former Congressmen Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson, who are competing to replace Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe.

As the federal government shutdown continues, farmers in the state are increasingly concerned that gridlock in Washington, D.C. could negatively impact Arkansas products. 

Growers and producers in the state are currently partnering with federal researchers on a variety of agricultural studies. 

Travis Justice is a senior economist with the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation. He says farmers in state also rely heavily on data from the USDA, information that has not been updated since the shutdown. 

Hay bales on fire
Doug Petty / Univ. of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture

Recent rain has curbed wildfires in some parts of Arkansas, but agricultural experts say those showers will do little to improve conditions in areas suffering from extreme drought conditions.

Dr. Jon Barry is a forester and volunteer firefighter in southwestern Arkansas. As a specialist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Barry says hay fires in some pastures can be difficult to extinguish and some hay bales can spontaneously combust.

The Arkansas Rice Depot in Little Rock received a 120 thousand pound donation of rice Thursday morning.

State agricultural experts say continuing dry weather conditions have actually aided harvesting efforts in southeast Arkansas. 

Row crop farmers are reporting that corn and rice harvests are almost complete and yields are doing very well.

However, other crops and cattle could suffer if drought-like weather conditions continue drying out pastures.

Hank Chaney is an extension agent in Faulkner County. He says lack of significant rainfall could take a toll on some crops.

Harvest Of Arkansas Early-Planted Rice Getting Started

Sep 3, 2013
rice fields
Mickey Liaw /

Arkansas rice growers who were able to get their crop planted early have begun to harvest.

Agriculture officials say that early yield numbers look strong, with 200 bushels-per-acre being common.

Many growers got a late start planting and some fields have yet to head. But some producers have drained their fields a little early. 

Extension service experts say that carries some risk because the high temperatures will dry the fields quickly and can stress the plants. 

Arkansas cotton growers have battled pests and disease this year, and the emergence of a fungus late in the season indicates a potential threat in the years ahead.

State growers are expected to harvest estimated 270,000 acres of cotton in 2013, down by more than half from 600,000 acres a year ago.

As recently as 2006, Arkansas growers planted nearly 1.2 million acres of cotton. Agriculture officials say growers will suffer yield losses due to tarnished plant bugs. And the emergence of Corynespora leaf spot is a new challenge for Arkansas growers.

Arkansas Senator Boozman Wrapping Up Rural Tour

Aug 29, 2013

U.S. Sen. John Boozman plans to bring his weeklong agriculture tour of Arkansas to a close on Friday with stops in three towns.