It may be common knowledge that agriculture is among the strongest pillars of Arkansas’ economy, but the “how’s” and “why’s” can sometimes be a mystery, even to life-long residents.
The Arkansas Agricultural Profile, published by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, offers an explanation of the many facets of agriculture in the state.
Leah English, program associate with the Division of Agriculture’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, is a member of the small staff of economists and analysts who compile data for the publication each year. She said much of the agricultural data comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and Economic Research Service. Much of the economic and employment data come from private sector sources.
“I’ve been told that a lot of farmers use this, just as a way of knowing where their contributions stand in the state,” English said. “It’s a way to help explain how important agriculture is to other people in the state. It’s also helpful for legislators, as an effective way to see how important agriculture is to the state’s economy.”
Some important facts highlighted in the 2020 publication:
-- Farmland comprises about 42 percent of the state’s land, with more than 42,000 farms covering 14 million acres
-- In 2019, Arkansas agriculture contributed approximately $21 billion in added value to the state’s economy
-- Agriculture supports more than 268,000 jobs in Arkansas
-- About 57 percent of the state is forestland; the timber industry saw about $439 million in cash receipts in 2018
-- Arkansas is the No. 1 rice producer in the country; No. 2 in broilers
English said that the data supporting each edition of the Arkansas Agricultural Profile is compiled over several years. 2020 presented unusual challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
“This year was a little different, because COVID has effected everyone’s schedule, both in terms of gathering raw data and releasing their findings,” English said. “Some of the data we would’ve gathered in June was pushed off until the end of October, so it’s not updated in the publication this year.”