Texas farmers must be thinking that if it wasnít for bad luck, they would have no luck at all. After enduring a drought in recent years that drew comparisons to the devastation of the early 1950s, the rains finally arrived earlier this year.
And they stayed.
To say itís been a strange year for weather would be an understatement.
Throughout June and July, the list of Texas counties declared disaster areas because of flooding, and therefore eligible for state and federal assistance programs, has been steadily growing. This week, 10 more counties were named, including nearby Runnels County, and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn indicated that damage assessments are continuing throughout the state so more announcements could be forthcoming.
On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that cotton farmers are suffering because the Texas summer has not been hot enough. Temperatures so far this year have failed to be warm enough to optimally encourage cottonís fruit, its bolls, toward maturity.
The result could be reduced yields at harvest, which begins, at the earliest, at the end of September. The crop appears to be about one to three weeks late right now, growers said, after a July that saw temperatures below normal on all but three days in the Lubbock area. Heat units, a measure of accumulated warmth during the growing season, are down 16 percent, a spokesman for the Texas Cooperative Extension Service said.
Increased moisture, especially in irrigated fields, may help offset the cooler weather. A hot finish to the summer would help boost yields and quality, too.
Itís still too early to tell how much of a blow this yearís odd weather will deal to the Texas cotton industry, which produces one-third of the nationís crop. Weather forecasts for the rest of the summer and early autumn are not definitive, so things could go either way.
If the stateís agricultural interests need someone who can sympathize with them, they need only turn to the tourist industry. The flooding has forced the closing of many water recreation sites, if not for the rest of the summer, at least for several weeks. And this comes in the year when families have an additional two weeks for vacation because a mandatory later start of the school year.
Meanwhile, Texas farmers have to be wondering how, after several years of drought, a needed change in weather conditions has given them the worst of both worlds.