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Ark rice acres could be lowest since ’89
Author: Mary Hightower, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

JONESBORO, Ark. – Acreage in the nation’s top rice growing state is expected to be at its lowest point since 1989, while corn acres in Arkansas are expected to overtake cotton acres for the first time since 1940, Scott Stiles, extension economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said Friday.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Agriculture Department, issued its Prospective Plantings report Friday, with figures based on a survey of America’s farmers.

CHARTING THE COURSE -- Chart shows planting intentions in Arkansas based on the March 30, 2012, Prospective Plantings report from USDA. (U of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture graphic by Scott Stiles.)

Rice farmers are expected to plant 1.161 million acres in Arkansas, down 3 percentage points from 2011. Even so, “total rice acres came in a little higher than expectations,” Stiles said. “The drop is attributed entirely to a 60 percent cut in medium grain acres from 255,000 to 100,000. Long grain acres are projected to increase from 940,000 to 1.06 million. “

Arkansas growers’ plans to put in 660,000 acres are in line with the national trend for more corn, with plantings expected to increase to the largest acreage in the United States since 1937. Nationally, growers plan to plant 95.8 million acres of corn this year, up 4 percent from last year, and closing in on the 1937 acreage of 97.2 million acres.

COVERING GROUND -- Corn planting for a demonstration field in Prairie Co., Arkl, on an overcast Friday, March 30, 2012. (U of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture photo by Brent Griffin.)

The crossover of cotton and corn acres in Arkansas is something of a watershed, Stiles said.

“This year will be the first time since 1940 we’ve seen more corn planted than cotton in the state,” he said. “Today’s corn acreage estimate will be the highest planted in Arkansas since 1956. It’ also the highest sorghum acreage since 2007.”

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