Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other national lawmakers petition federal government for flood-related agricultural aid

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 129 views 

The window for many rice farmers to replant crops lost in the recent floods is closing, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson has sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asking for help. Farmers have until June 9 to replant their crops, according to agriculture insurance regulations. Hutchinson has asked Perdue to extend the deadline.

“Excessive, additional financial hardship will be placed upon producers already facing significant challenges if this needed flexibility is not provided,” the governor said in his letter.

Finding replant seeds this late in the season will be difficult, and it could take time, according to experts. Producers must be free to base their replanting schedule on advice from consultants and experts that is specific to local conditions, not an arbitrary date set by a crop insurance program, he wrote in his letter.

Arkansas’ Congressional delegation has also sent a letter to Perdue asking for the same measures.

“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,” U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford said in a statement. “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.”

He added, “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 University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture estimates there could be at least $64.5 million worth of crop losses already. That number could grow as floodwaters move south and east in the region. Per crop, rice losses are $29.96 million; soybeans are $14.27 million; corn is $11.68 M; cotton is $2.21 M; the surviving acreage will likely have $6.41 million in increased management costs due to rain and flooding, according to information released by Crawford’s office.

This data has not accounted for lost and damaged acreage further south along the White River and southern Cache River. Estimates may not include 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 later, further affecting input costs and potential yields.

At least 10% of Arkansas’ rice crop could be lost. An estimated 100,000 rice acres have probably been destroyed or significantly impacted and it could rise to 300,000 acres. Gov. Hutchinson told Talk Business & Politics the floods may have caused more than $300 million in losses once its completely tabulated.

Arkansas farmers planted an estimated 1.2 million rice acres this spring. One of the key differences between the last epic flood to hit the state in 2011 and now is the timing. About 45% of the rice crop was in the ground when the levee system in Pocahontas ruptured six years ago, and widespread flooding occurred throughout the Mississippi Delta Region. This year, 89% of the rice crop has already been planted.

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