LITTLE ROCK – Hurricane Isaac's rains could idle Arkansas loggers.

LITTLE ROCK – Hurricane Isaac’s rains could idle Arkansas loggers.

“One industry that I think gets overlooked in times like these is forestry,” said Amy Simpson, Clark County extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “It’s our bread and butter down here, so we see how major rains, not to mention flooding, affect the timber harvest.”

Tuesday’s rain forecast from NOAA’s Hydrometeorological Prediction Center showed the eastern two-thirds of the state receiving at least an inch of rain with the highest expected totals, around 5 inches, to fall in eastern Arkansas.

“Loggers have no choice but to sit at home (if enough rain falls to cause flooding),” Simpson said. “No logging means no paycheck.”

And it’s not just loggers either.

“The forester/timber buyers are stressed trying to find places to put their logging crews to keep them working,” Simpson said. “The lumber mills, especially the smaller ones, get dangerously close or actually do run out of logs for a while, which could mean sending the mill workers home.”

Any heavy rains are likely to drain quickly, since many of the chief waterways are at very low levels.

In 2010, there were nearly 20,000 tons of timber harvested in Arkansas, valued at more than $413 million, according to the 2011 Economic Contribution of Arkansas Agriculture. (see

In the Delta, producers are in a bit of a quandary.

“The only thing it will help is with the late beans planted behind wheat,” said Robert Goodson, Extension Agent at Phillips County, near the Mississippi River.

“While a rain would be nice, all the water that falls will not affect the Mississippi River, unless it falls between the river and the levee,” he said. “As bad as it sounds, we could really use the dry weather to continue harvest.”

Even if much of the state received the highest expected totals, it probably won’t be enough to get producers out of the drought, said Deborah Tootle, associate professor-Community and Economic Development.

“The part of Arkansas north of I-40 still needs more than 15 inches of rain to end the drought,” she said.

Despite the drought, a large amount of rain in a short time is likely to run off and cause flash flooding.

“We are in need of rain, but a large amount at one time is certainly not the ideal,” Simpson said. “Our non-irrigated row crops needed rain, but now it’s too late to help and flooding would obviously put whatever did produce a crop in danger.”

For more information on flood preparedness see:

Tornado preparedness tipsheet available:

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons without discrimination.

Mary Hightower is Assistant Director of Communications/Marketing at the Cooperative Extension Service, part of the U of A System Division of Agriculture.