The 2010 and 2011 drought years have impacted Arkansas. Impacts were largely localized in the south and southwestern portions of the state. The areas that were most affected by the 2010 and 2011 drought years were the cattle and forestry sectors. Row crops were least affected by the drought years because of irrigation. The main effects of the drought on row crops were higher pumping costs and continued downward pressure on an already limiting resource—groundwater. Some locations responded to limited groundwater supplies by constructing on-farm reservoirs to capture precipitation and field runoff. However, many of these reservoirs are drying up and making crop producers one again dependent on groundwater.

Drought impacts on trees will likely be seen several years into the future as severely drought stressed trees continue to die off and wildfires continue to burn throughout the state. Reforestation and wildfire control costs are expected to increase as Arkansas continues into its third consecutive year of drought. The AFC which is charged with fighting most wildfires in the state is currently facing a funding shortfall and is seeking appropriations from the Arkansas State Legislature to carry it through the 2012 fiscal year. Thus a large portion of these costs will likely be paid by taxpayers in the future.

The Arkansas cattle industry is also likely to see a continuation of herd liquidations in 2012 into 2013, as pastures remain severely stressed by extreme drought conditions. Herd rebuilding will be a costly endeavor in the future for Arkansas cattle producers. The large scale liquidation of cattle that occurred in Arkansas during the two drought years also occurred in Texas, Oklahoma, and other states heavily hit by drought. The result will be tighter beef supplies and higher prices in the future for replacement heifers, and cattle producers will have a harder time financing future herd rebuilding.

This article paints a picture of the varied impacts of the 2010 and 2011 drought years on Arkansas that will be familiar to those in other drought affected states. The diversity of Arkansas forestry and agricultural enterprises affected by drought as presented in this article has been provided as a context for impacts experienced in other states. This article did not quantify the economic losses to the state as a result of the two years of drought. It also did not account for indirect effects on the Arkansas economy as a result of the drought years, such as lost jobs, lost income, and reduced value added. These efforts are currently under way.

For more information

Arkansas Forestry Commission. (2010). Arkansas statewide forest resources assessment and strategy. Little Rock, Arkansas: Author. Available online: http://forestry.arkansas.gov/SiteCollectionDocuments/ArkansasForestryCommAssessment.pdf

Arkansas Forestry Commission. (2012). Monthly fire and acreage Statistics, 2002-2011. (Unpublished Data). Little Rock, Arkansas.

Childs, N. (2012). 2010/11 rice yearbook. (No. RCS-2012). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Available online: http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/current/RCS-yearbook/RCS-yearbook-04-09-2012.pdf

Czarnecki, J.B. (2010). Groundwater-flow assessment of the Mississippi River Valley alluvial aquifer of northeastern Arkansas. (U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report No. 2010–5210). Reston, Virginia: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

Gillip, J.A., and Czarnecki, J.B. (2009). Validation of a ground-water flow model of the Mississippi River Valley alluvial aquifer using water-level and water-use data for 1998-2005 and evaluation of water-use scenarios. (U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report No. 2009-5040). Reston, Virginia: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

National Drought Mitigation Center. (2012). Drought monitor archives. Lincoln, Nebraska. Author. Available online: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/archive.html

National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration. (2005). Drought in Arkansas (2005 statistics). Little Rock, Arkansas: NOAA, National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office. Author. Available online: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lzk/?n=drought05yr.htm

National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration. (2011). Historic weather events in Arkansas, 2011 - final report. Little Rock, Arkansas: NOAA, National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office. Author. Available online: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lzk/?n=bigevents.htm

National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration. (2010). Historic weather events in Arkansas, 2010 - final report. Little Rock, Arkansas: NOAA, National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office. Author. Available online: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lzk/?n=bigevents.htm

National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration. (2009). Historic weather events in Arkansas, 2009 - final report. Little Rock, Arkansas: NOAA, National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office. Author. Available online: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lzk/?n=bigevents.htm

National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration. (2006). Historic weather events in Arkansas, 2006 - final report. Little Rock, Arkansas: NOAA, National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office. Author. Available online: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lzk/?n=bigevents.htm

Schrader, T.P. (2010). Water levels and selected water-quality conditions in the Mississippi River Valley alluvial aquifer in eastern Arkansas, 2008 (U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report No. 2010-5140). Reston, Virginia: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. (2009). 2007 census of agriculture, Arkansas state and county data. (Volumn 1, Geographic Area Series, Part 4, No. AC-07-A-4). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. Author. Available online: http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2007/Full_Report/Volume_1,_Chapter_1_State_Level/Arkansas/arv1.pdf

U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. (2012a). Arkansas county estimates. Washington, D.C. Available online: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Arkansas/Publications/County_Estimates/index.asp

U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. (2012b). Hay: Acreage, Yield, Production, Price and Value. Washington, D.C. Available online: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Arkansas/Publications/Statistical_Bulletin/Historical_Data/histhay.pdf

U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. (2012c). Quick stats. Washington, D.C. Available online: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/

K. Bradley Watkins (kbwatki@uark.edu) is an Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics, University of Arkansas, Rice Research and Extension Center, Stuttgart, Arkansas. The author gratefully acknowledges Jon Barry, Assistant Professor and Extension Forester, University of Arkansas, Southwest Research and Extension Center, Hope Arkansas and Matthew Pelkki, Professor, Forest Resources Department, University of Arkansas at Monticello, Monticello, Arkansas for their beneficial input about drought effects on trees and the forestry industry. The author also gratefully acknowledges Tom Troxel, Professor and Extension Animal Scientist, University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Steve Cheney, Livestock News Reporter and USDA Officer-In-Charge, Federal-State Market News, Little Rock, Arkansas for their valuable input regarding drought effects on cattle in Arkansas.