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State News


Farmers still feeling the sting from historic spring flooding

CONWAY COUNTY — The devastating effects of the Arkansas River’s rising floodwaters six months ago have left long-lasting problems for farmers.

Flooding combined with excessive moisture caused statewide financial setbacks as farmers look for solutions to recover.

The UA Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension stated: “Statewide, adverse weather events affecting agriculture in 2019 are estimated to result in a decline in the total value of production by approximately $347 million.

This decline in economic activity is estimated to result in a reduction in value added to the state economy of approximately $142 million. $75 million of this decline is a loss of labor income by state residents. Over time, it is estimated that 1,150 jobs would be lost as a result of this decline in economic activity.

According to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, the wet climate prevented Arkansas farmers from planting planting 327,732 acres of corn, 38,348 acres of cotton, 511,792 acres of rice, and 187,888 acres of wheat.

Robert Stobaugh’s rice and corn yields were not immune to the historic flooding.

“I think that the folks at home need to realize it’s a fragile situation,” Stobaugh said.

The Conway County farmer has been in the unpredictable agriculture business since he was 7-years-old. He tends to 6,000 acres of wheat, rice, corn and soybeans. For the past couple years, the wet weather has proven problematic for crop production.

“The conduit that drains our property all year long was the conduit that allowed the Arkansas River to backup into this area and fill it full during the flood,” Stobaugh said.

Financial assistance through disaster relief programs is offered to impacted farmers. Stobaugh is taking advantage of crop insurance. But he stressed not enough money is funneling in to make a full recovery based on the losses he’s experienced over the past two years.

“We’ve had to utilize our crop insurance to a large extent this year but none of those things that I’ve talked about — they don’t fill the bucket. They put some water in the bucket but they don’t fill the bucket,” Stobaugh said.

Despite the dire situation experienced by farmers, Stobaugh is keeping hopeful for greater crop production in 2020. He wishing Mother Nature could play along in favor of the agriculture community.

State officials fear the decline in farming’s economic value could lead to a loss of more than 1,100 jobs.


Human skull found during search for missing woman

NEWTON COUNTY — Authorities with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office are investigating after a human skull was found Monday morning.

According to the sheriff’s office, the skull was found by a resident southwest of Sam’s Throne near Mt. Judea on U.S. Forest Service land. Deputies say the skull was the only thing found so far but investigators will continue to search the area for other remains.

“At this point, we don’t have an official identification on who this is,” Newton County Sheriff Glenn Wheeler said.

Authorities say the skull was found near an area that was searched back in June for a woman that went missing.

Pamela Samuels-Lauro was reporting missing from Garland County on June 3, 2019, and her pickup was found near Sam’s Throne a few days later, prompting authorities to search the area.

“We can’t say if this is Pamela or not, but I have notified the family of the information just in case,” Sheriff Wheeler said.

The skull was sent to the state medical examiner’s office for identification.

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