PAYNEWAY, AR (KAIT) - Take a drive virtually anywhere in Region Eight and you'll see plenty of rice fields. Overall rice acreage is up 20 percent. But are the prices up as well?
There is no doubt there is a lot of rice being grown this year a substantial amount.
The combines are just now starting to make a serious attack on the thousands of acres. Riding in the cab of Bud Bingham's combine nearly all you can see are rice fields connected to rice fields which Bingham says is highly unusual. We dumped a load from the combine hopper into a rice buggy rolling alongside. The rice looks pretty good.
But as good as it looks, Bingham says it's not perfect. He held out a hand full of rice heads showing me what looks like copier toner over several kernels as well as a coating on the combine.
"Rust and smut both. Generally you have that like last year where you have a whole lot of wet weather and we can't really explain why were having the conditions we're having this year with the kinds of temperatures we've had."
Milling quality is down from last year, and overall yields are down from last year as well.
Bingham, "We don't really know how we're going to come out yet. We've got to finish first."
Bingham is about halfway done with rice. He finished up his corn last week and has even cut a few soybeans as well. But is the rice showing a good price?
As his combine passed by and the rice dust swirled around us Bingham smiled, "When we planted this rice it was worth 6 dollars a bushel. Today it's worth 4 dollars a bushel. Last year we had 1.4 million acres. This year we have 1.8 million acres. There's so much more rice that the price has fallen out from under us."
If producers are going to grow all this rice and cut all this rice. They gotta have some place to store it. And storage might be an issue this year.
Bingham hauls his rice to the Producers Coop Rice Mill in Tyronza. It's about a 20 mile round trip with an hour or so wait to unload. About 50 regular customers use the Dryer. Melvin Herring the General Manager says the rush is still coming.
"Well the way it's going right now they got some planted early and there's gonna be a little pause in there and then there's some still green so I'm thinking about 2 weeks."
Herring says he expects basically to fill his silos and empty them at least once or twice with this years rice harvest. Bingham says so far they are able to keep up with their 5 trucks, but he says when the rush hits.
"More than likely it will be a 24 to 30 hour trip just to get a truck emptied."
As Bingham keeps an eye on his harvesting. 20 years of rice growing experience tells him what kind of year it's going to be.
"It won't be the best crop we've ever had but I think it will be a substantial crop and it will work out OK. "