Arkansas ranks first among the six major rice-producing states, accounting for approximately 48 percent of the U.S. rice production. Rice production is concentrated in the eastern half of the state, stretching from the Louisiana to the Missouri borders. The top five rice-producing counties are Arkansas, Poinsett, Cross, Lawrence and Lonoke. Arkansas rice is known for its versatility and can be used in a wide variety of cuisines. It is enjoyed in the United States and throughout the world.
Arkansas grows rice on approximately 1.3 million acres each year. Rice production and processing play important roles in the state. Rice is the state’s second highest value commodity and the top agricultural export. Arkansas rice farmers and millers contribute more than $6 billion to the state’s economy annually and account for over 25,000 jobs, which are crucial to rural communities.
Arkansas rice is sodium, cholesterol and gluten free. It contains only a trace of fat and has no trans fat or saturated fat. U.S.-grown rice is also nutrient-dense and contributes over 15 vitamins and minerals, including folic acid and other B-vitamins, iron and zinc.
In Arkansas, managed rice fields together with natural wetlands provide the single most important wintering area for North America’s mallards. During the winter months, rice farmers capture rainwater in rice fields, creating vital resting and foraging habitat for migratory and wintering waterfowl. Winter flooding of rice fields also helps to prevent erosion, control weeds and protect soil nutrients.
Growers in the prairie lands of Arkansas were in need of a crop that could be grown dependably and profitably. Almost by accident, rice became a contender when in 1896, W.H. Fuller ventured southwest to Louisiana on a hunting trip. It was there that he first saw rice growing, which ultimately led to the development of a leading agricultural industry for the state. Fuller, along with his brother-in-law John Morris and John’s wife Emma, are generally credited with founding the Arkansas rice industry. By 1910, rice production, research and milling were established in the state. Today, the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie in Stuttgart, Arkansas, showcases the history of this major center for U.S. rice production.