Arkansas Farmers Get Ready for Rice Season

March 30, 2004 -- Posted at 2:23 p.m. CST

CRAIGHEAD COUNTY -- Rice has been grown in the United States since the late 1600's and today, more than 40% of the rice grown in the U.S. comes from Arkansas.

It's been an early plant, but hopefully the gamble will be worth it.

"We've had some good weather so far, and that always helps as far as getting it into the ground. you know that's just part of the game," said rice farmer Mike Hook.

Hook has been farming since 1985 and has planted rice nearly every year, and although he says it's too soon to tell about this year, he hopes it will be a good one.

"Some years you battle with weather your going to get it in on time or not because of the weather and what not. But this year so far, the weather's cooperated," said Hook, "We've got a lot of ground work done...and there's already some rice in the ground, which is even a little bit early."

But getting things ready for planting isn't easy...

"You've got a lot of land preparation. Get everything slicked up and smooth so you don't have any divots in the field...and of course you soil test as you would in any other crop, get your seed planted and levy's pulled and be ready to flood up when it's time, get it cleaned. The main thing is to get a rice crop good emergence and get it cleaned up," said Hook.

Last year Arkansas farmers planted over 1.5 million acres of rice, making the state the number one producer for the country.

Followed by Louisiana, California, Mississippi, Texas and Missouri which are the only other states that grow rice.

"We have a good climate, moisture, and an abundance of irrigation although we do have some areas that are getting low on irrigation water, but it's well suited to our soils and our climate and so Arkansas typically produces 40-45%of the nations crop," said Craighead County Extension Agent Steve Culp.

And it's that crop that is such a major economic factor for the state.

"It's one of the major, major crops in the economy state wide and it along with cotton are the major row crops that produce the bulk of the income," said Culp.

According to the USA rice council, the United States provides over 20% of the rice traded on the world market, ranking with Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.