Washington, D.C. – Yesterday evening, members of the Arkansas congressional delegation sent a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, requesting immediate assistance in providing relief to Arkansas farmers affected by recent flooding in the state. They also requested flexibility in the enforcement of “ability to replant” USDA provisions.
Following the letter’s sending, Congressman Rick Crawford said the following:
“Much of the damage to many of our rural communities and farms is worse than anything I’ve seen since I've been in office. During his visit to Arkansas, Secretary Perdue was able to see firsthand the devastation flooding has caused hundreds of producers in Eastern Arkansas. I am urging him to take immediate action in order to mitigate losses and damage and also to remain flexible during these hard times.”
With 89% of the rice crop already planted, a significant amount of input costs has already been expended for the current crop year. Unfortunately, new “ability to replant” regulations promulgated by the Risk Management Agency (RMA) actually compound the problem because they require farmers to replant rice through the final day of the Late Planting Period (LPP) – that is June 10, or 15 days after the Final Plant Date (FPD). Unfortunately, this date is unrealistic because replanting until the middle of June essentially guarantees steep yield losses that will result in excess financial hardship for most growers.
In the letter, the Arkansas congressional delegation wrote:
“In order to mitigate the financial impact of the “ability to replant” provisions, we request urgent action by USDA to provide flexibility in the enforcement of these regulations. Specifically, we request a county-by-county approach for the required replanting window that takes into account the growing conditions that producers individually face, instead of imposing a one-size-fits-all standard. Secondly, in determining whether or not it is “practical to replant,” we request USDA demonstrate considerable deference to producers regarding the factors and circumstances that impact the viability of replanting on their individual operations.
Finally, we request expeditious action in making a disaster declaration for individual counties impacted by the flooding so that producers can quickly access Emergency Loans and individual assistance that USDA can make available to them.”
The full letter is here.
Additional information on crop losses:
According to initial estimates from the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, the estimated impact of rain and floods on Arkansas cropland between May 1-5, 2017, was $64.5 million. Per crop, rice losses are $29.96 million; soybeans are $14.27 million; corn is $11.68 million; cotton is $2.21 million; the surviving acreage will likely have $6.41 million in increased management costs due to rain and flooding.
This data has not accounted for lost and damaged acreage further south along the White River and southern Cache River. Also, keep in mind the estimates may not account for certain input costs, such as levee repair work in rice. Furthermore, any replant situations will face different insect, disease, moisture, and weed pressures since those crops will mature at a later date, further impacting input costs and potential yields.