Economists estimate $309 million Ark. crop losses

AP News
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Posted: Dec 14, 2009 10:45 AM

Rains late in the growing season that inundated some cropland and pummeled rice and cotton plants caused an estimated $309 million in losses, according to economists at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

The $309 million loss is equal to nearly 10 percent of the estimated total gross receipts for corn, cotton, cottonseed, grass hay, rice, sorghum and soybeans. On a per-acre basis, the average loss for the crops is $43.

A final estimate for the 2009 crop year will be issued in January.

"The latest report reflects harvesting progress. As of Dec. 7, rice, corn and sorghum harvest has been completed, while cotton and soybeans were 98 percent harvested," said Eric Wailes, professor of agricultural economics and agribusiness for the U of A Division of Agriculture.

"Every week, more and more soybean producers are parking their combines for the season," extension soybean expert Jeremy Ross said. Of the small percentage remaining, "there are probably still a few good fields of soybean, but all of the harvestable soybean fields are probably out."

Extension cotton specialist Tom Barber said he saw "a couple of fields that were not harvested because the lower ends were still under water."

"Hopefully they will be able to harvest these fields before Christmas, but it will depend on the weather," he said. "These fields won't be the best yielding but cotton has a pretty good ability to hang on in the field as long as there are no flooding rains."

More rain fell on Saturday across the state, where temperatures were below freezing for part of last week.

Planting got off to a late start because of an unusually wet spring. Some growers who got their crops in early were able to have a successful, on-time harvest. But many others were a month or more late in planting, which left them at the mercy of almost daily rains in September and October.

Rice growers experienced losses from plants that were damaged by the wet weather, as did cotton growers. Asian soybean rust, which thrives in wet weather, was more of a problem than usual to soybean growers. So much rain fell that it was hard to apply fungicide to control the disease.