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By David BennettU of A System Division of AgricultureMay 31, 2019
(Newsrooms: Additional art available at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmDKidYd)(Download this story in MS Word format here.)
McGEHEE, Ark. – While farmers in southeastern Arkansas prepare for the rising Arkansas
River, some of their colleagues are coping with the opposite problem: dry fields.
As of Friday’s forecast, the river at Pendleton in Desha County was expected to reach
36 feet on June 6-7, well above the record of 34.1 feet.
“You know, what’s weird is we have all these legit flood worries and there are producers
who have run out of soil moisture,” said John David Farabough, agriculture agent
for the Desha County Cooperative Extension office. “So, they may have to turn on
wells to flush the field.”
Farabough said growers in his county struggled to plant with the heavy spring rains.
Some producers had finished planting, while others were 50 percent done, he said.
“It’s now to the point of asking is it worth the risk of trying to plant and have
it flooded out or, in some cases, the land is obviously going to be flooded out and
there’s no decision at all,” Farabough said.
However, “in some spots, we’ve gone from being completely saturated to almost a dust
bowl – we haven’t had much cloud cover, the winds have been blowing, there’s been
bright sunshine and a lot of ground has dried out so quickly,” he said. “Think about
it: we know flooding is coming, we know damage is coming and yet we need some rain
to help the crops.”
The immediate future isn’t looking good, Farabough said.
“What could be very bad is when all this Arkansas River water meets the Mississippi
and starts backing up. How fast can that water get out? Debris is also a concern and
there are some places along the Arkansas that can hold a lot of water and could have
a really negative impact,” he said.
Late May floodwaters along many Arkansas rivers and tributaries are already causing
misery. If predictions hold it’s only going to get worse in coming days.
“Yeah, it’s hit hard in many areas of the county,” said Kurt Beaty, agriculture agent
for the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension office, after touring toured Pine
Bluff and surrounding areas this week. “Riding over the bridges, it becomes obvious
how serious this is. Some conservation reserve program fields are already flooded.”
Farther north, at the very southern end of Phillips County, “there are difficulties
with the pumps at the Graham Burke Pumping Station on the White River,” said Robert
Goodson, agriculture agent for the Phillips County Cooperative Extension office. “That’s
led to a lot of flooded cropland, a lot of prevented planting situations. Most of
the water there won’t be gone at least through the middle of June – that’s at the
There’s also a lot of seep water along the Mississippi River. “It’s just a guess but
I’d say around 20,000 acres of cropland have been affected,” he said. “The water is
coming from the ground up all the way from Helena to Snow Lake. There are some spots
where there is water flowing artesian well-style because of the high water.
“The backside of the levee is covered up. All the cows are either at the base of the
levee or on the outside portion,” Goodson said. “Some pastures have been lost.”
As of May 30, “the Mississippi River is falling pretty fast in Helena – maybe three
or four feet to below 39 feet,” Goodson said. “But once you get down to the spot where
the Arkansas River meets the Mississippi, it’s rising for obvious reasons.”
Back in Jefferson County, around Pine Bluff, the Arkansas River is forecast to crest
at 51 feet on June 5-6, just short of the record 52.1 feet set back in 1943.
During the week of May 20 “they started putting sandbags out in some places. I spoke
with a farmer who had been putting sandbags around his house, which is near the river,”
Beaty said. “Everyone I talk to says this is the worst flooding incident they can
remember – and that’s saying something.”
For more information on flood recovery visit http://bit.ly/2pyPR1o.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A System Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com