Ask Robert Seay, Benton County staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, what a wet spring means for agriculture in the state and he'll turn to one of the newspaper clippings he keeps taped to his file cabinet.
The 2004 “Arkansas Democrat-Gazette” story reported that 7.25 inches of rain fell on Fayetteville's Drake Field in June of that year, and Seay points to a favorite quote he calls "a classic Ozark truism."
"The rain would be good for more farmers than it would be bad," Johnny Gunsaulis, Washington County extension agent for the Division of Agriculture, told the newspaper. "Farmers never root against mud this time of year because it's gonna get dry!"
Indeed, the state-by-state drought monitor website at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is already showing that portions of north central, northwest, south central, and southwest Arkansas are trending toward abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions. So a rainy start for 2013 is not being taken for granted by the state's farmers and extension agents, especially after the painful drought of 2012.
According to the Cooperative Extension Service's April 14 Crop Progress and Condition report, 43 percent of pasture and range was in good or excellent condition. Non-alfalfa hay was 42 percent good or excellent and 47 percent fair.
"We finally do have our ponds full again," said Jesse Bocksnick, county extension agent for Sebastian County. "We are muddy right now, but you can tell how bad it has been in the past due to the lack of complaining or griping by producers about the rain. Everyone is afraid to jinx the moisture and are praying that we continue to get this in June, July, and August."
The hay for the first cutting is shaping up nicely, he said, and growers are expecting to get some good production.
"The cool season grasses like rye grass have exploded with growth the last week putting on several inches of leaf which greatly increase the amount of usable forage," said Bocksnick. "We have had producers getting stuck in pastures with no complaints. When the sun is out and the wind is blowing though it seems to dry out very quickly."
But the recent lower-than-normal temperatures can also have a negative impact on fodder as the year progresses, and Columbia County Extension Agent Jerri Lephiew said there could be cause for concern.
“The rain has been fantastic," she said. "However, the cool weather interruptions are holding back our warm season grasses, which has livestock producers a little irritated. To me this has seemed like a much more normal spring for south Arkansas, which has me hopeful we are out of the high desert weather patterns."