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Agriculture is key to our state's economy, culture, and history. It is our leading industry with roughly $16 billion contributed to the Natural State economy each year. With rice, soybeans, cotton, corn, cattle, and wheat, we at Arkansas Public Media pledge to report on issues that impact not just this industry, but this leading way of life in our state.

Strong Odds On Corn Continue For State's 2018 Planting Season

Ann Kenda
Tyler Nutt, a farmer in Bono, is preparing to plant corn this spring. He says the crop is particularly suited to the lighter, sandier soils on his farm.

Farmers around Arkansas are feeling optimistic about the chances of corn producing a healthy harvest this year.  Nationally, corn hit a record yield in 2017 and prices averaged $3.50 per bushel, making corn among the best paid of the major row crops.

Arkansas may not be part of the traditional corn belt of the U.S. but still makes a great place to grow corn, according to Bono farmer Tyler Nutt.  He said much of corn’s success is due to Arkansas’s status as the second most poultry-producing state with almost unlimited demand for corn to feed chickens.

“You put a pencil to it, and whatever pays out better, that’s typically the crop you plant,” Nutt said.

He said corn is also good for the soil, and needs far less water than rice.

Analysts said corn also offers the advantage of lower transportation costs.

Mark Lambert, director of commodity activities and economics with the Arkansas Farm Bureau, said about 70 percent of Arkansas’s corn stays in the state; the remainder goes to the major river ports for transportation to other states and countries.

A landprint on Tyler Nutt's farm in Bono marks the area where corn will be planted this spring.

Eugene Young, regional director of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service Delta Regional Office, said corn is the third most frequently grown crop in Arkansas, behind soybeans and rice and ahead of cotton.

“So it is definitely a very important commodity to producers across the state,” he said.

Farmers such as Nutt believe that with its high demand and lower costs, corn makes a wise choice going into the 2018 growing season.

“But of course, Mother Nature is pretty hard on everything,” he said, noting that corn will do best this year if it’s a relatively cooler summer.

Corn is typically the first of the major row crops to be planted and will be harvested in August and September.

This story is produced by Arkansas Public Media, a statewide journalism collaboration among public media organizations. Arkansas Public Media reporting is funded in part through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with the support of partner stations KUAR, KUAF, KASU and KTXK and from members of the public. You can learn more and support Arkansas Public Media’s reporting at Arkansas Public Media is Natural State news with context.

Ann Kenda joined Arkansas Public Media in January 2017 from Sudbury, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Syracuse University and previously worked in public radio, commercial radio and newspaper in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She focuses on health, justice, education and energy as part of the Arkansas Public Media team. Her stories can be found on the airwaves, and social media.
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