Arkansas Agriculture

Bill Would License, Regulate Grain Dealers In Response To Turner Grain Crisis

Feb 25, 2015

A bill was filed Wednesday that would let the State Plant Board require grain dealers to post surety bonds, obtain a license, and temporarily rescind that license without a hearing.

Senate Bill 555, the Arkansas Grain Dealers Act, is a reaction to the loss by Arkansas farmers of millions of dollars unpaid by Brinkley-based dealer Turner Grain Merchandizing. Butch Calhoun, Arkansas’ secretary of agriculture, in October estimated total producer losses at $50 million.

rice fields
Mickey Liaw /

Members of Arkansas' congressional delegation have joined colleagues from other states in urging Secretary of State John Kerry to encourage Iraq to purchase more American-produced rice.

Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton and Arkansas Reps. Rick Crawford and Bruce Westerman have signed a letter that seeks diplomatic assistance to improve trade relations with the Iraqi Grain Board. In recent years, the board has bought rice from other nations over lower cost American rice.

Arkansas growers set or tied state records for yields in six crops in 2014, exceeding the national average in per-acre yield in four categories.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2014 Crop Production Annual Survey released Monday, Arkansas growers set state records for cotton, corn for grain, all rice and long grain rice, soybeans and sweet potatoes. Average yields for corn, cotton, long grain rice and soybeans all exceeded national averages.

Jorge Royan / Wikimedia Commons

Agricultural opinions in Arkansas were upbeat about President Obama’s plan to move towards normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba, but political attitudes were mixed.

On Wednesday, Obama announced a plan to re-establish some diplomatic and economic ties between the U.S. and the communist island nation using Presidential authority and actions.

U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has made disaster declarations for farmers in two Arkansas counties that suffered losses and damage due to high winds and hail that occurred on Oct. 7.

Responding to requests from Gov. Mike Beebe, Vilsack issued the primary county disaster declarations in Craighead and Mississippi counties. Additionally, Crittenden, Greene, Jackson, Lawrence, and Poinsett counties were named as contiguous disaster counties.

Cotton farmers in northeast Arkansas are being urged to report damage to their crop as a result of a hail storm while officials seek a disaster declaration.

State Rep. Homer Lenderman told The Jonesboro Sun that damage from Monday's storm is "probably not" enough to warrant a federal disaster declaration. But he said officials are working to get a state disaster declaration.

American Phytopathological Society

Arkansas researchers say a disease that can cut peanut yields by half if left unchecked has been discovered in a plot near Newport.

Early leaf spot is a fungal disease that affects the leaves of peanut plants. Symptoms include circular brown lesions with a yellow halo. The fungus also produces silvery, fuzzy tufts of spores on the top side of the leaf.

Plant pathologist Travis Faske says it's unlikely this year's peanut crop will be threatened by the disease because it's only been detected in an isolated research plot.

A week after Republican senate candidate Tom Cotton launched a six-figure ad buy explaining his farm bill vote three major fact-checking organizations have rejected the ad’s premises. In the commercial Cotton said President Barack Obama “hijacked” the farm bill by funding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – commonly referred to as food stamps., the Washington Post, and Politifact note food stamps have been part of the farm bill since 1973.

Arkansas Sec. of Agriculture Butch Calhoun / Arkansas Agriculture Department

A government loan extension for Arkansas farmers was touted Tuesday by Arkansas’s U.S. Representatives as needed assistance after a grain firm failed to pay farmers. The United States Department of Agriculture granted a 60 day extension on Farm Service Agency Marketing Assistance Loans used by east Arkansas farmers to plant crops.

Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Butch Calhoun said the collapse of Turner Grain Merchandising, a middleman for farmers and grain buyers, means farmers didn’t get the money from the grain brokerage to repay loans used in planting.

A new report says flooding that began in late June will lead to millions of dollars lost in crop value for Arkansas farmers.
 The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports farmers in 10 Arkansas counties are expected to lose more than $35 million in crop value. The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service study says the full extent won't be known until after harvest.