Arkansas Agriculture

The state of Arkansas is basically a farming territory. Agriculture is the main industry of this state. Arkansas is the largest producer of rice in the U.S. It is also the second largest producer of poultry and eggs and the third in turkeys and aquaculture. Other products of this state include soybeans and cotton among several other lesser products.

Arkansas Agriculture Products

Rice cultivation: Even though California and Iowa lead in exports, Arkansas still dominates the top position in rice production. In the late 1800’s, there was a need to develop a crop which could sustain the economy independently. Quite by chance, it was discovered by a hunter named W. H. Fuller who ultimately incorporated rice cultivation into the agricultural mainstream of Arkansas. By the year 1910, rice production was a fully developed activity. Today, rice is cultivated over about 1.3 million acres of land annually. 

Poultry farming: The history of poultry farming in Arkansas is a long and colorful one. It all started in the late 1800s when a handful of entrepreneurs with a vision for the future started experimenting with different techniques in poultry farming. In 1893, a farmer named Millard Berry developed an incubator and used it to enhance poultry production.

From 1920 onwards, development of transport infrastructure gave a boost to poultry farming. Now it became possible transport poultry to and from remote areas. A chicken farmer named John J Glover mail ordered hundreds of chickens in 1960. He culled them out and began to sell high quality broilers at $1.00 each. These birds got the nickname of “Arkansas Broilers”, and this was the birth of brand-selling in the poultry industry.

The entry of McDonalds and such similar chains in the U.S. since 1960 created a massive demand for processed chicken.

Last but not the least, the development of refrigeration techniques helped in the processing of poultry products. Today, the poultry industry in Arkansas is one of the biggest and modern in the world.

Turkey rearing: Another important farming product of Arkansas is turkeys. Due to favorable climatic conditions for turkeys, it became an important industry from the early days. Arkansas is well known for its abundant availability of wild turkeys. Turkey hunting is a very popular tourist attraction in this state.

Soybean Production: The University of Arkansas has played a major role in the development of the Soybean cultivation in the state. Soybean is not a mainstream crop, but rather an alternative to cotton. But due to the variety of different uses of this crop, (soybean nuggets, milk and oil just to name a few), this sector received heavy subsidies from the government for development. Today soybean oil is a major oil consumed in the U.S.

Aquaculture – catfish: Of all aquaculture, catfish production is the major activity in this state. The second largest number of catfish in the nation is produced by Arkansas. It started in the 1950 when buffalo fish started to be replaced with catfish. Today it is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Cotton: It was in the 1850s that it was discovered that the alluvial soil of Arkansas is conducive to cotton growing.  Just before the American Civil War, with the easy availability of slaves, cotton cultivation was at its peak. Today Arkansas is major contributor to the cotton production in the U.S.

Peaches: These are grown in upper Arkansas where the terrain is hilly, as peaches need to grow on slopes. The main peach producing areas are in Johnson County in the Arkansas River valley and the Ouachita Mountains.

Viniculture: In the late 19th century viniculture was developed. There were two major factors which brought this about. Firstly, the immigration of Swiss-Germans who entered the state through railroad agents with a lure of good land at a reasonable rate, introduced wine technology. Later the when the Roman Catholic Church promoted Christianity, demand was created for communion wine.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes got a major boost in from the 1900’s onwards the main tomato producing area being in the south-east, Bradley County being dubbed as the “tomato capital”. Here again, much technical support has been given by the University of Arkanksas.

Timber: Started around 1880, the timber industry reached its zenith around 1910. A lot of money was invested in timber by various companies.. However, in1927, a rapid fall in the price of timber led to widespread layoffs in the timber industry. Also, the drought of 1930-1931 added further fuel to the fire. The industry picked up from 1940 and grew steadily from the 1960’s onwards. Today the timber industry is on par with all other sectors in the U.S.

Dairy farming: After World War II, the dairy industry got rapidly developed. During the nineteenth century, this sector did not receive much attention. From the 1900’s however, urbanization brought in new technology, thereby transforming the dairy industry into a modern one. In 2005, there were 40,000 dairy and cattle farms in Arkansas.
Conclusion: We can conclude by saying that Arkansas is a very major contributor to agricultural produce in the U.S. today. It is a farming hub in its own right which is really diverse in its areas of specialization.

Arkansas Agriculture Statistics

Top Commodities, Exports and Counties

Top 5 agriculture commodities, 2001
Commodity Value of receipts
thousand $
Percent of state total
farm receipts
Percent of US value
1.     Broilers 2,237,586 43.6 13.4
2.     Cotton 502,635 9.8 10.1
3.     Cattle and calves 432,272 8.4 1.1
4.     Soybeans 407,815 7.9 3.2
5.     Rice 362,186 7.1 43.8
All commodities 5,131,964   2.5

Top 5 Agriculture Exports, Estimates, FY 2001

Commodity Rank among
million $
1.     Rice 1 350.7
2.     Poultry and products 2 307.0
3.     Other 9 225.7
4.     Soybeans and products 9 198.6
5.     Cotton and linters 6 163.1
Overall 11 1,385.2