- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Farmers across Arkansas are still weathering a series of spring showers that have flooded fields, smothered crops and swept away cattle.

Since March 1, between 12 to 18 inches of rain has fallen across the Arkansas River basin, according to the National Weather Service in North Little Rock. Fort Smith, one of the hardest hit areas, has received 27 inches of rain, which is more than double the typical rain over that period, said National Weather Service Senior Hydrologist Tabitha Clarke.

And the rain isn’t finished. Clarke said an additional 1 to 2 inches should saturate the state this week. The Arkansas River was in a major flood stage Tuesday, with more flooding expected as water flows downriver.

Many rows of crops near the river are already flooded, which has agriculture experts predicting lower crop yields and a rough year for farmers.

Zach Taylor, director of marketing for the Arkansas Agriculture Department, said the flooding has hurt rice, soybean, corn and other crops statewide. Some of the crops can be replanted, but others can’t, he said.

“This could very well put folks out of business,” Taylor said. “The flood in Brinkley last year put some guys out of business because they had the bare minimum crop insurance and didn’t include flood protection.”

Joe Thrash, who farms about 900 acres near Toad Suck, said he lost about a third of his soybean crop and wasn’t able to plant any corn this year. High water levels have also damaged about 75 acres of his wheat crop.

“Nobody around here can remember anything like this in the past,” said Thrash, who’s worked his land for 25 years. “Nobody really knows what to expect.”

Arkansas Farm Bureau spokesman Steve Eddington said it’s too early to tell what sort of economic impact the weather will have on the state or on individual farmers. He said ranchers have been hurt too, and that some have reported their cattle being swept away near the Red and Ouachita rivers.

“Any time you make it more difficult on farmers and ranchers there are consequences to that; that could be on their livelihood or the cost of food,” Eddington said.

Compounding the bad news: High water levels affect when and how quickly farmers can plant, and crops planted outside of the ideal times tend to not grow as well. That has famers already concerned about their pocketbooks.

“We’re watching every penny we spend,” Thrash said. “We don’t want to spend anything extra than we have to because we know the yields are going to be less at the end of the year.”

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Follow Allen Reed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Allen_Reed

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