Arkansas farmers didn’t plant on 1.3 million acres this year

Local In AR

LIITLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — This spring’s heavy rainfall and flooding left 1.3 million acres (0.526 million hectares) of land unplanted in Arkansas.

Lawrence County farmers saw nearly 74,000 idled acres (29,947 million hectares), the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. Jerry Morgan is one of the county’s farmers who said his farm had more than 500 acres (202 hectares) of corn, rice and soybeans that he couldn’t plant this year.

“This is the hardest year, mentally and physically, that we’ve ever had,” Morgan said. “Mentally, because we were trying to decide what to replant, if anything, and the government wasn’t telling us what it was going to do.”

He was referring to confusion in late spring and early summer when the U.S. Department of Agriculture was slow in deciding that acreage not planted wouldn’t be part of the $16 billion second phase of the government’s tariff-relief package.

Nationally, 19.4 million acres (7.85 million hectares) was not planted this year compared with 2 million in 2018. Most prevented-planting acres were in corn, soybeans and wheat, according to figures released last week by the USDA.

Morgan said the prevented planting insurance helps pay the bills, but it doesn’t bring a farmer to a break-even point.

“It won’t make an equipment payment or a land payment,” he said. “If you’ve got debt— and most farmers do— it’s not going to cover that note. So now we’re sitting here with idled acreage.”

The USDA began releasing an annual prevented-planting report in 2007. Since then, the Arkansas record for prevented planting was 708,409 acres in 2015.

Farmers in Arkansas, the nation’s top rice producer, harvested about 200 million bushels from 1.4 million acres last year, but reported 510,000 acres of prevented planting of the grain this year. That amounts to about 84 million bushels.

At $5 a bushel, rice not planted amounts to about $420 million in lost sales, according to the Democrat-Gazette.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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