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Capitol & Scott: Farmers still feeling ripple effects of historic drought

Record-low water levels on the Mississippi River worsen impact of dry season by Lara Farrar, Nick Popowitch | December 21, 2022 at 3:49 p.m.
Soybeans being loaded onto a barge that will then head to New Orleans where the crop will be exported to domestic or global markets. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Lara Farrar)

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Arkansas farmers are still recovering from one of the worst droughts in recent decades on the Mississippi River. Dry weather across the United States over the summer caused the Mighty Mississippi’s water levels to dip so low this fall that thousands of barges got stuck in the mud, halting trade on one of America’s most vital waterways.

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The timing of the drought coincided with the height of harvest season for farmers, causing potentially big losses for those who didn’t have storage for crops that could not be loaded onto barges.

At Poinsett Rice & Grain’s port near Osceola, more than a hundred trucks — double the usual number – have been arriving daily this December to try to offload crops that weren’t shipped earlier this year.

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Water levels are higher now, but the fallout from the drought will be felt for months as farmers and the supply chains responsible for transporting their goods recover losses.

Capitol & Scott visited Poinsett Port where Jeff Worsham, port manager, discussed how the extreme weather event continues to impact business. Hunter Biram, an assistant professor and agricultural economist with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, also joined the show to discuss what 2022’s historic drought means for commodity markets now and in years to come.

Additional reading:

Drought snarls Mississippi River transit in blow to farmers

Arkansas farmers paying price of low water

Record low Mississippi River levels have Arkansas farmers dealing with challenges

Let us know what topics would you like to hear about in future episodes:

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled Hunter Biram's name.


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