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Hurricane Hanna leaves grapefruit afloat in South Texas orchards

Harvest-ready cotton also suffers extensive damage. Economist Samuel Zapata discusses the economic impact.

Shelley E. Huguley, Editor

August 14, 2020

For the third year in a row, South Texas crops have been damaged by devastating floodwaters in June and July. On July 25, 2020, Hurricane Hanna left grapefruits afloat and harvest-ready cotton strung out and on the ground. 

The Lower Rio Grande Valley was hardest hit, but agricultural losses occurred throughout a 32-county region. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Economist Samuel Zapata visited with Farm Press about the estimated economic impact of the storm.

Zapata Pic.jpg
(Samuel Zapata, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension economist. Photo courtesy of Samuel Zapata.)

"We contacted our network of county Extension agents in each of the 32 counties impacted by the hurricane and asked them to assess the initial damage," Zapata says. "We compiled their information to estimate the overall impact of Hurricane Hanna in South Texas."

Farm Press also visited with cotton producer Brian Jones, Edcouch, and Harlingen citrus producer and President of Texas Citrus Mutual Dale Murden about the trail of destruction Hanna left behind on their South Texas farms. 

When the hurricane hit, Murden says the grapefruit and oranges were still green. "The grapefruit was baseball size. We don't start picking until late September, early October, so we still had a few months to ripen up. But we were in a great state, quality-wise and size-wise when it hit.

“Depending on where you were in the eyewall is where the most damage occurred," he says, adding that those close to the eyewall had as much as 50% of their citrus crop on the ground. 

Murden estimates about a 30% loss for the Texas citrus industry, valued at about $66 to $67 million.

Watch to learn more.



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About the Author(s)

Shelley E. Huguley

Editor, Southwest Farm Press

Shelley Huguley has been involved in agriculture for the last 25 years. She began her career in agricultural communications at the Texas Forest Service West Texas Nursery in Lubbock, where she developed and produced the Windbreak Quarterly, a newspaper about windbreak trees and their benefit to wildlife, production agriculture and livestock operations. While with the Forest Service she also served as an information officer and team leader on fires during the 1998 fire season and later produced the Firebrands newsletter that was distributed quarterly throughout Texas to Volunteer Fire Departments. Her most personal involvement in agriculture also came in 1998, when she married the love of her life and cotton farmer Preston Huguley of Olton, Texas. As a farmwife, she knows first-hand the ups and downs of farming, the endless decisions made each season based on “if” it rains, “if” the drought continues, “if” the market holds. She is the bookkeeper for their family farming operation and cherishes moments on the farm such as taking harvest meals to the field or starting a sprinkler in the summer with the whole family lending a hand. Shelley has also freelanced for agricultural companies such as Olton CO-OP Gin, producing the newsletter Cotton Connections while also designing marketing materials to promote the gin. She has published articles in agricultural publications such as Southwest Farm Press while also volunteering her marketing and writing skills to non-profit organizations such as Refuge Services, an equine-assisted therapy group in Lubbock. She and her husband reside in Olton with their three children Breely, Brennon and HalleeKate.

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