May 08, 2017
LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS -- Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and members of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation, including Senator John Boozman and Congressmen French Hill, Steve Womack, and Rick Crawford toured the devastation around northeast Arkansas from the air yesterday.
A news conference was held after Sunday’s flyover tour at the State Police Hangar at TAC Air here.
Governor Hutchinson thanked Secretary Perdue for taking the time to survey the damage and listen to the needs of impacted communities and farmers.
Senator Boozman echoed Hutchinson’s sentiment, saying, “There’s no substitute for being able to see this up close and personal so we can go back and tell our colleagues in Congress the extent of the damage.”
“I want the farmers in Arkansas to know that the resources of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be at their disposal,” said Perdue. “Our people are already on the ground around the state looking and helping. We’ll do everything in our power to make sure that your farmers can continue on, certainly crop insurance is a big part of that, and we want them to take advantage of all of the resources of the USDA.”
Perdue continued, “From a farmer’s perspective, I’ve been there. I know the thrill of a wonderful crop, and the despair of flooding and drought. Farmers are the most productive citizens we’ve got in this country.”
Rich Hillman, vice president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau, thanked Perdue for making the trip to Arkansas. “I’m a rice farmer myself,” said Hillman. “The simple fact that you are here in our state, gives a lot of those farmers and ranchers hope today, so we appreciate it.”
Many farmers have been affected by the flooding in the mid-south and while the scope of damage is still to be determined, a preliminary assessment by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture puts total crop loss at $64.5 million. Rice is the crop loss leader at $29.96 million.
The estimate was compiled by Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist, from a survey of extension agents and agronomists this week. Among the factors taken into account are the costs of seed and herbicides already applied, equipment, and labor.
“Obviously, we won’t know the full extent of the damage until the water recedes and farmers are able to see what’s left,” said USA Rice Vice President of Government Affairs Ben Mosely. “With regard to disaster assistance, there isn’t much there. The Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to designate counties as disaster areas to make emergency loans available to producers suffering losses. To be eligible for a Secretarial Disaster Declaration, the county must have a 30 percent production loss of at least one crop”
Mosely concluded, “As far as crop insurance goes, again, we will have to wait and see. Everyone knows that rice is undersubscribed for crop insurance when compared to other crops. Rice gets about one-fourth the coverage per dollar when compared to corn, in other words, a rice grower has to pay four times as much to get the same coverage as a corn grower. For those who can afford coverage, they’ll need to work with their adjustors to navigate the new “practical to replant” rules.”