Arkansas’ agricultural sector tops $21 billion in value

by George Jared ([email protected]) 1,106 views 

Arkansas agriculture provides about $21 billion annually in added economic value, according to the latest Arkansas Agricultural Profile.

The report, published by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, offers an explanation of the many facets of agriculture in the state. The 2020 edition is now available for download at this link. The publication is available at no cost.

It notes the sector directly or indirectly supports at least 268,000 jobs in Arkansas.

Leah English, program associate with the Division of Agriculture’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, is a member of the staff of economists and analysts who compile data for the publication each year. She said much of the agricultural data comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and Economic Research Service. Additionally, private sector sources contribute to the economic and employment data.

“I’ve been told that a lot of farmers use this, just as a way of knowing where their contributions stand in the state,” English said. “It’s a way to help explain how important agriculture is to other people in the state. It’s also helpful for legislators, as an effective way to see how important agriculture is to the state’s economy.”

English said the data supporting each edition of the Arkansas Agricultural Profile is compiled over several years. 2020 presented unusual challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

“This year was a little different, because COVID has affected everyone’s schedule, both in terms of gathering raw data and releasing their findings,” English said. “Some of the data we would have gathered in June was pushed off until the end of October, so it’s not updated in the publication this year.”

The report revealed that about 42% of the state’s landmass is comprised of farmland, meaning there are about 42,000 farms on 14 million acres. Arkansas remains the top rice producing state, generating about half of all rice grown in the U.S.

In 2018, the state ranked 15th in the country with about $9 billion in total agriculture cash receipts. It was 10th with animals and animal products, valued at $5.6 billion and 18th in crop cash receipts valued at $3.5 billion.

Commodity values for the state’s top crop, soybeans, topped $1.151 billion in 2019, while rice accounted for $985 million. Cotton produced $414 million in value, while corn nearly hit the $500 million mark.

Broilers were the top livestock commodity in the state with a value of $3.6 billion and calves added about $361 million in value, according to the report. The broiler production and value ranked second among all states.

About 57% of the state is forestland. The timber industry generated $439 million in cash receipts in 2018.