BRINKLEY, Ark. — Four counties in eastern Arkansas are joining forces for what one source described as one of the most important farm production meetings of the year in the area.

Hank Chaney, Prairie County staff chair for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, says the meeting, Feb. 13 in Brinkley, will feature expert speakers with tips on how to help row crop producers survive the financial crunch in agriculture.

“When you look at some of the things going on in agriculture right now, it’s pretty depressing,” Chaney said. “A significant number of farmers didn’t pay out at the end of the year. They couldn’t repay their operating loan.”

Extension experts say Arkansas is one of many states with financially distressed farmers. They blame problems on record production, record fuel and fertilizer costs and a drought in 2005. Many Arkansas farmers were also beset by serious insect problems.

Topics for the meeting include: Projected Crop Expense/Budgets, Cheapest Approach to Weed Control, Market Situation and Outlook, Fertilizer Update/Situation, Ways to Reduce Diesel and Other Energy Costs and Cutting Costs and Not Jeopardizing Yield. In addition, fine-tuning production costs in rice, soybeans, cotton and feed grains will be discussed.

Extension experts who will be on hand include Bob Scott, Chuck Wilson, Chris Tingle, Bill Robertson and Jason Kelley; also, Scott Stiles, and Rachel Lipsey. Billy Herrington of Price Risk Management Group Inc. will provide the marketing outlook and Bubba Vance will discuss the fertilizer situation.

Brent Griffin, Prairie County agent, said financial lenders are looking closely at cash flow and asking questions such as, “What’s the likelihood a producer will be able to pay out and have money left over?” He said producers, who are either behind or barely breaking even after last year, won’t get loans if their equity is not fairly substantial.

“They’ll get sent on to other lending institutions and FHA,” Griffin said.

Chaney said some producers last year had to dip into their savings to finish their crops. A significant number of them may not be farming this year, he said.

Griffin agreed. “The axe has yet to fall, but it will fall in the next six weeks. By mid-to-late- March, growers in the Arkansas Delta will know whether they’ll be farming this year.”

Row crop farmers from throughout the state are invited to the meeting, which is free, Chaney said.

The meeting, from 8 a.m. until just after noon, will be at the Brinkley Convention Center. For more information, contact the Extension office in Monroe County (870) 747-3397; Prairie County (870) 998-2614; Woodruff County (870) 347-2556; or St. Francis County (870) 261-1730.