Samuel Zapata, AgriLife Extension economist, Weslaco, and contributor to the report, said Hurricane Hanna caused extensive damage to South Texas crops July 25-26. The storm tracked south-southwest of Corpus Christi, with much of the impact focused on the Lower Rio Grande Valley, although numerous counties experience some level of agricultural losses.
About 95% of the economic damage occurred in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Zapata said.
“We estimate that Hurricane Hanna caused over $366 million in lost agricultural production and associated business activity in the areas affected by the high winds and heavy rain it generated,” he said.
Crops lost to Hurricane Hanna
Commodities affected by the storms include cotton lint, cottonseed, citrus, sugarcane, sesame, sorghum, corn and soybeans, Zapata said.
The storm impacted 32 Texas counties – Aransas, Bee, Bexar, Brazoria, Brooks, Calhoun, Cameron, Dimmit, Duval, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Harris, Hidalgo, Jackson, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, La Salle, Live Oak, Matagorda, McMullen, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Starr, Victoria, Webb, Wharton, Willacy and Zapata.
In the most recent Texas Crop and Weather Report, AgriLife Extension specialists in Weslaco reported that Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties were hit with heavy rains, including 6-18 inches of rain, sustained winds of 30-40 mph and gusts of 60-plus mph.
Perennial crops like citrus and sugarcane were exposed and subject to significant losses in annual production, Zapata said. The potential annual harvest of citrus was reduced by almost one-third, while almost half of the annual sugarcane production was lost.
Citrus and sugarcane producers suffered direct gate-value losses of $66.7 million and $12.2 million, respectively, he said. High winds caused much of the damage to those crops, though long-term effects of flooding could add to producer losses, according to AgriLife Extension specialists.
Rio Grande Valley cotton was perhaps the most vulnerable crop, Zapata said, having been defoliated but mostly unharvested. Around 95% of the cotton crop was lost.
Direct losses of cotton lint and cottonseed were valued at $76 million and $14.2 million, respectively, he said.
Cotton lint was damaged by rain and high winds that left the commodity wet and strung out along crop rows, and mud splatters led to discoloration, according to AgriLife Extension specialist reports. Cottonseed sprouting was expected following exposure to excess moisture.
“Typically, these types of storms hit Texas later in the hurricane season and after most harvests are complete,” Zapata said. “But Hurricane Hanna caught the cotton crop at the worst possible time.”
Fortunately, grain and vegetable production were relatively unaffected due to timing, he said. Most harvesting operations had concluded for those crops before the storm arrived.
Widespread economic impact
Zapata estimated the sum farm-direct gate value of the crop losses associated with Hurricane Hanna at $176.6 million. This value is associated with another $102 million and $87 million worth of indirect effects of business lost and induced effects to consumer expenditures, respectively, in the affected 32-county region.
The lost economic activity is also associated with 3,670 jobs in the region, he said. And lastly, it represents an estimated $188 million reduction in the value of the regional economy or its contribution to the gross domestic product.
The network of AgriLife Extension agents in those counties conducted expedited assessments of the damages for this economic impact study. Additionally, Gov. Greg Abbot issued a Disaster Declaration for the 32 counties affected by Hurricane Hanna.
Zapata said the hurricane damage exacerbated already poor market conditions for all commodities due to COVID-19.
“The current situation with COVID-19 was already difficult on farmers because commodity prices were low overall,” he said. “The hurricane just added to the problems for farmers in those areas who experienced significant damage.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Conditions were hot and dry with 100-degree days and plenty of sunshine that continued to dry down pastures and crop fields. All counties reported short soil moisture levels. Nearly all counties reported fair rangeland and pasture conditions. Many farmers were harvesting corn and grain sorghum with both nearing an end. Many corn fields were averaging well over 100 bushels per acre. Most small grain fields were plowed and prepared to plant later in August or September. Stock tank levels were dropping. Hay cutting and baling continued. Cotton looked very promising. Some cotton fields were near defoliation stage. Brush control continued. Livestock were in good condition.
Conditions remained dry. While some areas were reporting adequate subsoil and topsoil moisture, most areas reported short soil moisture levels. Sorghum conditions were fair to good. Pasture and rangeland conditions remained poor to good with some cattle producers supplementing feed where forages were limited. Corn fields continued to mature, and fields were in fair to good condition.
Hot, dry weather caused soil moisture conditions to decline. There was little rain since Hurricane Hanna, and fieldwork was starting up again. Corn and grain sorghum harvests were almost complete. Yields on corn varied depending on how early or late the crop was planted. Grain sorghum yields were mostly above average. Cotton fields were being defoliated, and harvest began, with yields expected to be above average. Rice harvest progressed, but ratoon yields were expected to decrease in fields where rutting was unavoidable. Hay baling continued with good cuttings reported. Pastures were in good condition; however, additional moisture would benefit forage production going into fall. Livestock were in good condition. Livestock water supplies were declining steadily, but runoff will be needed soon to replenish surface water. Supplemental feeding continued at about 15-20% of total diet. Cattle prices were lower with level inventories.
Very few parts of the district received significant rainfall. Drought conditions worsened in many counties. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good. Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels were adequate. Hay production continued. Cattle market feeder calf prices were higher, while slaughter prices fell. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Fly numbers were high. Armyworms were reported in some parts of the districts. Wild pig activity was a problem for livestock and hay producers who reported damaged pastures and meadows.
Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels were low due to drought. Daily triple digit temperatures, wind and no rain were affecting crops. Producers were irrigating nonstop. Cotton stages ranged from just beginning to bloom with more than six nodes above white flower to past physiological cutout. Peanuts were generally healthy and developing a good pod load. Cattle were in good condition.
Northern parts of the district reported short to adequate topsoil and subsoil moisture. Central areas reported short subsoil and topsoil moisture, while southern areas reported very short subsoil and topsoil moisture levels. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to very poor. Corn was in good to excellent condition. Cotton was in good to fair condition with the majority of the crop squaring. Sorghum condition was good to excellent with the majority of the crop headed out. Producers were providing irrigation to crops where available.
Most counties reported very short to short topsoil moisture with some reporting adequate moisture levels. No significant rain was reported. Temperatures were in low-to-mid 90s. Pastures were beginning to show some heat stress. Denton County reported rangeland conditions were still good.
Daytime temperatures averaged above 100 degrees with lows in the upper 80s. Trace amounts of rain were reported in some areas. Many grass fires were reported in the district. High winds, low precipitation and extreme temperatures were drying out rangeland grasses and stopping growth. Large ranches were preparing steers and heifers for shipment, with the condition of those cattle being very good overall. Producers were pulling calves off grazing early because there was not enough grass. Pecan producers set traps for pecan weevils. Cotton fields have experienced stink bug infestations. Cotton was suffering tremendously from lack of rain, extreme heat and constant wind. Even irrigated fields were hurting, and many fields began shedding squares and bolls. Corn harvest began, and yields were below what was expected. Most sorghum was not expected to be harvested due to lack of moisture to produce a harvestable head.
Conditions were hot and dry. Conditions in most areas continued to decline. Cotton fields were in mostly fair condition. Hay cutting continued. Grain sorghum and corn harvests started, but few dryland grain sorghum fields will be harvested for grain. Livestock were in fair condition. The district needed rain.
Rain was needed in many areas, while other areas were reporting wet conditions. Hay was being harvested. Rice harvest was almost in full swing with lines at mills and driers expected to pick up soon. Wet weather and cloud cover slowed rice harvesting. Pastures were growing, but field conditions were soggy. Livestock remained in good condition. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied from excellent to very poor with good ratings being the most common. Soil moisture levels ranged from adequate to very short with adequate levels being the most common.
Moisture conditions continued to decline with spotty showers and high temperatures reported. Conditions were stressing rangeland and pastures. Corn harvest was wrapping up or complete. Kinney County reported average corn yields and that cotton appeared to be on track to produce average yields. Guadalupe County reported sorghum harvest was complete with good yields. Caldwell County reported cattle and sheep prices were down. Livestock and wildlife were provided supplemental feed and were in fair to good shape.
Northern, eastern and western parts of the district reported hot weather conditions and very short to adequate soil moisture levels. Southern areas reported hot weather and adequate to surplus soil moisture levels due to rains generated by Hurricane Hanna. Cameron County reported water was still standing in some areas after heavy rains from Hurricane Hanna. Scattered rains were reported in many counties. La Salle County reported 1-3 inches of rainfall. Some counties did not receive any rain, including Maverick County, which reported 100-degree days and no rain. Peanut fields were setting pods and also under irrigation. Bermuda grass hay fields were producing well and being cut and baled. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair. Native and improved grasses were green and lush in areas that received rains. Grain sorghum and corn harvests were completed. Zavala County reported average corn yields and slightly below average yields for sorghum. Cotton fields were rapidly maturing. Bolls were opening and under irrigation in most areas. Cotton harvest should begin in 10-14 days. Wildlife were doing well with many fawns and quail spotted over the past four months. Irrigated watermelons and cantaloupes were in full production with no problems reported. Pecan orchards were in good condition. Livestock producers reported some herd reduction due to dry conditions. Field preparations began for spinach and cabbage. Pecans made good progress following irrigation. Several cattle and hay producers reported their pastures were hit by armyworms. Stock tanks were replenished in areas that received rains from Hurricane Hanna. Feeder calf prices were steady. Starr County reported 100% cotton field losses from wind. Some later-planted sesame fields were recovering from hurricane damage, but fields that were close to harvest were not doing very well. Sesame seeds were on the ground and germinating.
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