Agriculture is Arkansas’ most dominant economic sector, and the harvest in the Natural State is nearly complete. Cotton and soybean crop production is up this year, while corn and rice production is down, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Sorghum production will be at its lowest level in decades.
Soybean yields had been projected to be around 48 bushels per acre, but the projection has now grown to 50 bushels. Arkansas farmers planted about 3.5 million soybean acres this year, the most of any crop in the state. A forecasted 175 million bushels will be produced from those acres, a 2% drop from the projections in early October, but it’s a 20% uptick from 2016.
Arkansas is ranked third nationally in cotton production. The crop is projected to produce 1.06 million bales, about 60,000 more than was projected last month. It’s 22% (220,000) more than was produced in 2016. A record yield is now also projected. Yields are expected to be 1,162 pounds per harvested acre, up 66 pounds per acre from earlier projections, and up 87 pounds from last year. Farmers planted 438,000 cotton acres in 2017, a 16.8% (63,000 acres) uptick.
Not all yield and crop production numbers in the state are positive. Arkansas is the top rice producer in the country, growing about half of the rice grown in the U.S. Arkansas rice farmers are expected to harvest 80.9 million hundredweight, up 1% from October’s projection, but down 23% (105 million hundredweight) from production in 2016. Yields will be higher, however. Farmers are expected to garner 7,400 pounds per acre, up 50 pounds per acre per month from last month’s projection, and it’s a 480 pound increase from 2016 totals. Rice farmers harvested 1.09 million acres, a 42.8% (428,000 acres) drop from last year. International over-production of rice and lower prices forced farmers to plant less.
Sorghum production for grain is forecasted at 560,000 bushels, an 83% drop from 2016. Yields are about 80 bushels per acre, about seven more bushels per acre than last year. An estimated 7,000 acres were dedicated to the crop, down 37,000 acres from the previous year. It’s the lowest number of sorghum acres planted in Arkansas in decades, and it could be the lowest since 1948. Sorghum used in ethanol production nationwide is down almost 20%. Lower corn prices have also impacted sorghum acres, according to USDA.
Corn farmers in Arkansas will produce 107 million corn bushels, down 16% from 2016. Yields are expected to top 179 bushels per acre, an eight bushel per acre increase. Farmers harvested 595,000 acres in 2017, a 20% (150,000 acres) drop from last year.
Arkansas’ agriculture sector has a $16 billion impact on the state’s economy, according to Arkansas Farm Bureau. The state has 49,346 farms, that span 14.5 million acres. About 6.2 million acres are dedicated to crops, while the other 8.3 million acres are dedicated to livestock and hay. The average Arkansas farm has 308 acres. The average farmer has an annual revenue of $160,270.