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Rice was designated the official grain of the State of Arkansas by Act 513 of the Eighty-sixth Arkansas General Assembly. Introduced by Representative Bruce Maloch of Magnolia (Columbia County), the act was approved on March 27, 2007.
Rice, a staple of human consumption for thousands of years, entered North America when it was first planted in South Carolina in the early 1690s. While rice was cultivated in small amounts in Arkansas as early as 1840, it did not become a major crop in the state until the earliest years of the twentieth century. William Fuller of Carlisle (Lonoke County) is frequently credited with creating the interest in rice production through an experimental farm in 1902. Following his example, rice production caught on in various counties on the Grand Prairie, as well as the Mississippi River Delta region and the Arkansas River Valley.
Today, rice is grown in forty Arkansas counties. In 2005, over 1.6 million acres in the state were dedicated to rice production, making Arkansas the top rice-producing state in the country. Most of the rice raised in Arkansas is of the long-grain variety, while other states (such as California) produce more short-grain and medium-grain rice. About ninety percent of the rice consumed in the United States is grown in the United States, and the United States is also the fourth leading exporter of rice (exporting rice especially to Mexico, Canada, Haiti, and Japan). While more than half of the rice produced is served as rice, rice also is an ingredient in processed food, beer, and pet food.
The Arkansas rice crop of 2002 was raised on 3,573 farms totaling 1.5 million acres; the total production was 97.2 million hundredweight of rice. By 2008, production had dropped slightly to 92.9 million hundredweight raised on 1.4 million acres. The state quarter, designed in 2002 and distributed in 2003, includes rice in its design, the only grain depicted.
For additional information:
Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board. http://www.arkrice.org/ (accessed November 2, 2015).
Ware, David. It’s Official! The Real Story behind Arkansas’s State Symbols. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2015.
Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
Last Updated 11/2/2015
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