Wet Harvest Leads to $77M Loss for Arkansas Soybean Farmers

December 12, 2018

Arkansas soybean farmers have lost at least $77 million this year after heavy rainfall interrupted harvest season and damaged the quality of the crop, according to a recent report by agriculture experts.

Wet conditions starting with Tropical Storm Gordon in September and continued rainfall in the following months delayed Arkansas’ harvest, costing about $56 million in physical damage to soybeans, according to the University of Arkansas report. Agriculture economists also predict the state’s farmers will likely spend another $21 million to repair muddy fields after using heavy machinery to salvage their crops, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

“Virtually every field has rut damage, and each will require one or two additional trips to repair the damage,” said Jeremy Ross, a soybean agronomist who contributed to the report. “It all adds up, labor, fuel, and a lot of equipment was put under a lot of stress in that late harvest.”

The $77 million total doesn’t account for soybean farmers’ losses sustained from having their dominant export market largely close as China responds to President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs.

The lack of sales has forced many U.S. farmers to store their crops in hopes of selling the surplus later at a decent price, the report said. But more soybeans going into storage is driving prices down and could affect the crop’s price next year.

Some of the state’s soybeans were sold for less than $7 a bushel, a significant price drop from the $10 a bushel rate just over a year ago.

Louisiana’s soybean crop was also devastated by the storm and a rainy harvest, reducing quality as farmers manage the aftermath of recent trade disputes with China.

Farmers in both states could qualify for payments from the one-time $12 billion fund that the Trump administration set up to help offset the loss in trade. But even with the payments, farmers could still fall short of breaking even.

“The elephant in the room is tariffs,” Ross said. “If we hadn’t had those, we wouldn’t have had near the problem of getting rid of the beans. There would have been discounts, but the real problem was capacity. Elevators along the (Mississippi) river and in the Gulf got backed up, with no place to sell.”

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