2017 presented another tumultuous year for agriculture in Arkansas, from record flooding to pitched battles over the use of one of the most popular herbicides in the farming industry. Despite wild swings in precipitation from summer into fall, the state also saw a record soybean yield, and both redbanded stink bugs and fall armyworms made their presence known throughout Arkansas.
Based on an informal poll of agricultural reporters, agronomists and other experts throughout Arkansas, here are our top 10 (+1) Arkansas agricultural stories of 2017:
1. As reports of dicamba drift injury continue to grow, Arkansas state officials move to ban the sale and use of the herbicide throughout the state. While new varieties of dicamba-resistant soybeans and cotton became available to growers for the 2016 season, a new label for dicamba use did not immediately follow. While growers filed 32 official complaints of drift injury with the Arkansas State Plant Board in 2016, more than 50 were filed between January and June in 2017. In August, researchers with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture released findings that showed off-target drift in all formulations of dicamba they tested.
2. Record rainfall and flooding impacts more than 360,000 acres of Arkansas farmland, causing an estimated $175 million in crop losses. In early May, heavy rainfall and flooding brought on by swollen rivers swamped much of the farmland in the eastern and northeastern areas of Arkansas. Occasional heavy rainfall throughout the remainder of the spring and summer frustrated efforts to recover.
3. Two stories tied for third place in our informal poll:
Arkansas looks at yet another record soybean yield, despite 2017’s tumultuous weather. After all was said and done, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast a 175 million bushel harvest for Arkansas soybean growers, a 20 percent increase over 2016, with growers averaging 50 bushels per acre.
In May, the Chinese textile company Shandong Ruyi Technology Group announced plans to convert a former Sanyo television manufacturing facility in Forrest City into a mill that will produce cotton yarn. The plant will create about 800 jobs, according to press releases.
4. After the rains and flooding of the spring and summer, Arkansas forage producers faced one of the driest Septembers on record, and faced the possibility of a difficult start to 2018.
5. After a protracted effort to enact the Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the farm bill, growers and others in the agricultural industry will likely have more changes to look forward to as Congress begins to assemble the 2018 farm bill.
6. Despite a hard year for Arkansas forage, markets are strong for the state’s cattle producers.
7. The state’s timber industry continued to grow, even as timber market prices remained steady. Even a merger of two major timber industry producers was forecast to have little if any effect on the overall market.
8. Highland Pellet’s wood pellet plant, which opened in Pine Bluff in late 2016, rolled into action. The plant, which employs more than 60 people directly, had been under development since 2014, according to press releases.
9. After a mild 2016-2017 winter, redbanded stink bugs enjoyed a geographical leg up on Arkansas growers, having overwintered well into the southern tier of the state’s counties. Division of Agriculture entomologists called an emergency forum in August.
10. Fall armyworms also mounted an unbridled assault on crops and fields throughout the state, with early arrivals in rice fields and pastures.