Arkansas’ First District agricultural producers are no stranger to pumping water in June and July. It’s a common sight this time of year as rainfall typically migrates from statewide-covering lines to occasional — sometimes scarce — isolated thunderstorms.
This year, our growers have resumed their furious water pumping in an effort to save their crops and livelihoods. But unlike a drought year, farmers need water off their fields rather than on them.
Beginning June 29, wave after wave of saturated clouds inundated some of the most fertile land in the Arkansas Delta, with some areas reporting as much as eight inches of rain at a time. In total, at least 75,000 acres of corn, cotton, milo, rice, and soybeans went underwater. Damage in the First District — while not limited to — saw its greatest reported damage in Cross, Independence, Jackson, Lee, Lonoke, Monroe, Prairie, St. Francis, and Woodruff counties.
Soybeans have seen the greatest plant stress from the high waters, as submerged crops have trouble surviving floods lasting longer than 24 hours. Many soybean acres have completely withered following the deluge. Meanwhile, the water-tolerant crop, rice, has seen its own share of difficulties. Heavy rains washed away rice levees that are necessary to hold or maintain water for plant growth and to avoid any potential drought stress. In addition, some acres were completely submerged, overpowering the plant’s ability to withstand standing water.
I saw some of the damage while traveling to meet with agricultural producers in Monroe County, which is the flooding epicenter of sorts. Sadly, the flooding also extended beyond farm fields. Houses and farm shops had standing water, too, forcing residents and producers alike to abandon their homes and offices. For the flooding I didn’t see, folks were quick to describe their damage or even to show pictures taken with their smartphones.
The bottom line is they were hurting and needing help.
Consequently, I was happy to join the rest of my colleagues in Arkansas’ Congressional Delegation in formally supporting a request from Governor Beebe for a USDA Secretarial Disaster Declaration for Arkansas’ flooded counties. A Disaster Declaration would give farmers the option of applying for emergency loans through the Farm Service Agency. And with many growers having their revenue sources underwater this year, these loans may prove necessary to keep our farmers operating.
When the high waters begin to recede, farmers will resume doing what they do best; growing and harvesting the food and fiber upon which we depend. Then, they’ll look to next year in hopes of brighter prospects.
I thank our growers for enduring these tough years. Meanwhile, I and my District offices stand ready to help in whatever way we can.
And I believe that working together, our farmers will have a sea of green — not water — covering their fields once again.