Texas farmers and ranchers are taking an economic hit from the drought

FLORESVILLE, Texas – Texas is experiencing record heat. And along with it – the drought. Right now, 85% of Texas is in extreme drought conditions.

What You Need to Know

  • Record-breaking heat in Texas is causing crops to shrink due to drought
  • Russell Boening, a local farmer, says he is losing money due to crop shortages
  • Livestock prices could be lower than usual because there is too much supply and not enough demand

“It seems like it’s getting warmer earlier,” said Russell Boening, a farmer and rancher in Floresville, a city southeast of San Antonio. “We’re starting to get over 100 [degree days] there in june And here we are on the first of August. Our area right here has been extremely dry and most of Texas is extremely dry. The last time it was this dry was in 2011, at least in this area. And it seems to last longer and get a little bit hotter than in 2011.”

Boening’s uncle and father began farming and ranching on this land in the mid-1950s. His grandfather also farmed in the area. Today, Boening tries to grow 4,500 acres of crops a year. In one field, he grew grain sorghum. The yield this summer was lower than normal.

“Your returns go down, your check is going to go down,” Boening said, noting that it’s too early to tell how much money he’s lost. Only 2.5 inches of rain has fallen on Boening land since November 1, 2021.

“Many of your inputs were already in that crop: your fertilizer cost, your fuel cost, your labor cost. So it’s going to be a financial hit,” Boening said.

In 2023, there will be discussions on a farm bill. The last one was written in 2018. Boening said it’s important that crop insurance is included in the next iteration.

“If a farmer or rancher had to buy that crop insurance, without the federal subsidy, it would be cost prohibitive,” he said. “Why is it important? It’s important for food security. In the long run, do we want to keep our farmers and ranchers? It’s about keeping the industry strong.”

Boening said he will get some insurance money this year because he didn’t have a crop yield.

“[Insurance] it could be what makes that farmer, rancher able to cultivate and raise livestock next year,” he said.

In addition to farming, Boening also raises cattle. As president of the Texas Farm Bureau, he talked to other farmers who have it worse than him. Some of them are selling their livestock. They don’t have enough water, food or resources to take care of them. Boening hasn’t had to yet.

“When you have nothing to graze on, you have to feed them or sell them,” he said. “[If you sell them], you are getting some return for selling them. But you are also selling your seed stock. You are selling your cows that were going to produce a calf next year, and the year after that. Economically, it’s a tough business. You keep moving forward because that’s what you do.”

Livestock prices may be lower than usual because there is too much supply and not enough demand.

“The price came down a little bit because of the numbers,” Boening said. “Actually, before the drought came with a vengeance, cattle prices were going up. And you know, if it was a normal year, we just don’t know what’s normal in Texas sometimes, I think prices would be more tall

Boening explained that if you can’t grow cow feed (hay) due to drought conditions, you have to buy it. Irrigation helps growth, he said, but that too is expensive with rising fuel costs.

“If you’ve had other issues and things that have held you back financially, even before the droughts, well, the droughts could be the last straw, so to speak,” he said.

The state climatologist said Texas is not experiencing faster temperature changes than other states and that there has not been a decrease in precipitation overall. However, Texas has more inconsistent rainfall from year to year, compared to other states.

“As temperatures rise, evaporation rates increase and rainfall becomes more erratic, we start with greater vulnerability to drought. So anything that makes droughts worse, makes them particularly bad in Texas,” said John Neilson-Gammon , Texas State Climatologist and Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University.

Texas is no stranger to hot weather and droughts, but this year is different.

“For much of the state, basically everywhere from San Angelo to Galveston, including San Antonio, we had several months that were the hottest on record,” he said. “So in that sense, this kind of weather, specifically this, this extreme, has never happened before.”

Texas is vulnerable to climate change for several reasons.

“First of all, we’re a coastal state, which means we’re vulnerable to changes in sea level and changes in hurricane intensity. So that’s a potential problem. That’s going to continue to get worse over time,” Neilson said – Backgammon. “Secondly, the intensity of the rains is increasing everywhere. But in Texas, we start out with more rainfall than any other state… Third, being a fairly warm state, that means that as disease vectors like mosquitoes, particular diseases that are tropical, they can spread to latitudes higher according to the support of the environment. they Texas will be at the forefront of that, compared to the rest of the United States.”

Looking ahead, Neilson-Gammon said Texas could become a leader in sustainable energy. Currently, Texas is a hub for the oil and gas industry, which contributes to climate change.

“Temperatures in Texas have risen more than half a degree Fahrenheit per decade for the past few decades, and that’s on track to continue, at least for the next several decades,” he said. “Apart from that, it will depend on what we are doing globally on climate change… But higher temperatures [and] more erratic rainfall will combine to lower the amount of soil moisture on average. And that means less water will be available for the growth of grass and fodder and so on. So basically the entire natural environment in Texas is drying up as a result of climate change.”

It already looks like Texas is drying out. It’s been a tough year for the state’s farmers and ranchers, but Boening said they always try to pull through.

“We all come together and hope for better times,” he said.

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Texas farmers and ranchers are taking an economic hit from the drought

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