August 31, 2016 Edition

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Lawrence Co. farmers
facing tough times

The harvest is underway in many fields in Lawrence County, including this rice field on Hicks Farms off Highway 91, but some fields remain under water as the rivers slowly recede after heavy rainfall and flooding throughout the region.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt

Gretchen Hunt

Whether it be reduced yields or whole sections of planted acreage destroyed, Lawrence County farmers are facing tough times after they were affected by flooding at both the beginning and ending of the 2016 season.

Jerry Morgan of Lynn said he has spoken with farmers throughout the area over the past week, and, without assistance, many will be hurting.

He mentioned one field of soybeans where all but about one acre is now just stems after being drowned by floodwaters.

With input costs continually increasing, any loss has a major effect on a farm's ability to survive.

"My dad sold soybeans at the same price we are, but input costs were a lot less then," he said. "People don't realize the severity."

Morgan said the crop insurance that farmers purchase is not effective in instances like these. He said many policies insure a crop at 70 percent, but if a section of a field is destroyed and the remainder of the field nets enough yield to make the 70 percent threshold, the farmer receives no compensation for the lost acreage.

Lawrence County Extension Agent Herb Ginn said he's been checking on damage field by field.

"It's still hard to say how bad it is," he said. "The rivers are receding slowly. There is a total loss on some soybean crops in the Powhatan area. There is some harvesting underway, but I haven't heard much on yields."

Local elected officials, Chamber representatives and local agriculture agencies are all working to help collect data and present the farmers' case, but it will come down to whether federal assistance is made available.

Morgan said many have told him if the only assistance available is a low-interest loan, they are finished.

"This is a serious position that the farmers are in - in multiple counties," he said. "This is not a reversal, this is a catastrophic loss."

A major concern for Morgan is that young farmers, such as his son and son-in-law, will not be able to continue to earn a living in agriculture.

Meeting set at Lynn

Lawrence County farmers are encouraged to attend a meeting today at 1:30 p.m. at the Lynn Community Center.

Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward, along with representatives of Sen. John Boozman, Sen. Tom Cotton and Cong. Rick Crawford, will be in attendance, as well as State Rep. James Ratliff and Independence County Judge Robert Griffin.

"We're just trying to bring awareness to a severe problem we have in our county and in the farming industry itself," Morgan said.

Those who are unable to attend the meeting can contact members of the federal delegation as follows: Senator John Boozman's office, Nathan Davis, 870-268-6925; Senator Tom Cotton's office, Jeff Morris, 870-933-6223; and Congressman Rick Crawford's office, Mitchell Nail, 870-203-0540.

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