Rita Worries Rice Farmers in Region 8

September 23, 2005 – Posted at 4:12 p.m. CDT
CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR -- Hurricane Rita has been downgraded to a category three, but as Texas residents escape its wrath, folks in Region 8 are bracing for the aftermath.
With Hurricane Rita headed towards the Gulf Coast , it could trigger heavy winds and rains here in region 8 and that could be bad news for farmers.
“Two or three inch rain, water will be over this rice here if I don't get it cut out,” said farmer Joe Christian.
Christian is working against the clock, trying to get his rice out of the fields before rain from Hurricane Rita overflows the Cache River.
“It will basically ruin it. You won't get half of it. You may not get any of it. It depends on how long the water stays out, because when the river comes up, it will be out on it for two weeks,” said Christian.
He's been on the combine for 12 hours at a time, but it may not be enough.
“We're not going to make anything this year anyway. We'll go back the other way just because of fertilizer and fuel prices,” said Christian, “It could be make or break whether we stay in business or not. If you haven’t got anything to sell, banks not going to loan you any money for next year if you can't pay this year off.”
A spokesperson for Riceland says the rice has been coming in too quick for them to handle. They are hoping the rains from Rita will allow them to catch up as they are forcing a slow down this weekend. They are not accepting any more rice until Monday.
Arkansas is the top rice producing state in the nation... yields so far are about average, roughly five percent below last year's record.