Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Heavy Rains Were Beneficial

Texas is known for volatile weather, which can have a significant impact on agriculture in the state. Cotton crops fluctuate with what Mother Nature throws at us, and for good reason as many of our acres are dryland production. Although this year has been challenging with all the rain we have received, it generally works out that we make more cotton in a wet versus dry growing season.

Being a large place, Texas ranges from deserts in the West to piney woods in the East and from the semi-arid plains of the panhandle to the subtropical Rio Grande Valley. We grow cotton in all of these areas and in between. There are always challenges, but opportunities are plentiful to bring to harvest a field of the natural fiber we all love and know.

In 2011, Texas experienced what some call the worst annual drought on record, much like they are suffering in the Western part of the country today. The three years that followed were better, but the drought was still with us and would ebb and flow its level of severity as rains came and went. Then came the return of El Niño, the weather pattern that often brings above-normal moisture conditions to the Lone Star State.

This came true in 2015, and we needed it for many reasons, but, most importantly, to replenish our public water supplies. Many cities and communities in the state were getting close to running out of water, and most everyone was under some kind of conservation mandate. So, thank you Lord for the beneficial rain just when we needed it.

Though the rains this spring have filled soil profiles and put much-needed water in our lakes, it has come with a price for some. With heavy rains comes flooding. Lives and property were lost. For the communities and areas where severe flooding occurred, it was devastating, and it will take time for them to recover.

Living close to where the worst flooding occurred, I observed extensive media coverage of the disaster. There were pictures of huge trees laid over sideways and stripped of everything but large limbs, vehicles sitting in the middle of rivers, bridges washed out and remnants of what once was somebody’s home. There were so many stories about the worst tragedy, the loss of human life. People communicated with loved ones through use of their mobile phones as the wall of water came down the river and swept them away.

Loss of life is the ultimate tragedy in these disasters. But, disasters often bring out the best in people, and it was refreshing to see all of the volunteers, support organizations and donations come in from our citizens to help those in need. Luckily, none of us here at TCGA suffered from the floods, but about five blocks from our building it looked like another river flowing through Austin, so we saw the devastation up close. The rains this spring will greatly benefit Texas agriculture in the long run.

Farmers now have moisture, which gives them the opportunity to produce a crop, and ranchers’ pastures have turned green with lush growths of grass for cattle to graze. Though some cotton acres that were projected to be planted a couple of months ago will now be in some other crop or maybe fallowed, we can still have a bountiful crop given our moisture situation from the acres planted to cotton. Unfortunately, for those who did not get any crops planted on time due to excessive moisture, they have missed an opportunity.

Texas cotton producers and the industry’s infrastructure need a good crop to continue the economic rebound from the recent drought years. If the improved moisture situation in the state is any sign, it appears we could be on the path to recovery. One thing we all know in agriculture. We are always at the mercy of Mother Nature. And, at least for the moment, she seems to be happy with us in the Lone Star State.

Tony Williams, Austin, Texas tony@tcga.org

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