Winter Storm Uri’s Costly Impact on Texas Agriculture
Loss of power and busted water pipes are just some of the problems people have dealt with since last week's extreme weather rolled through, but what's the impact been like on Texas farmers following Winter Storm Uri? Some estimates say the losses are in the millions of dollars.
According to a report from KCEN, farmers across the state are totaling the damage.
It's the middle of calving season and there was real concern for newborn cattle freezing to the ground. Danny Johnson handles 550 cattle across 3,500 acres in Grandview and tells KCEN, “You’ve got to get out there and find those cattle. You’ve got to check them every few hours. Every day. All night, we just put our layers on and cover ourselves up and go.”
Johnson says they had 17-20 calves born last week and took them to hotboxes filled with hay and equipped with heat lamps. Even with the precautions, Johnson said they only lost one calf.
Johnson County’s agriculture and natural resources extension agent, Justin Hale, is working to find out what the losses are across the state. He'll turn in his report to the state. He says everyone's hurting in a different way after the winter storm, which affected not just livestock, but also crops. Hale noted that crops planted early on likely froze, but those planted late have a chance of recovering.
Hale said he's seen a statewide economic impact, and that rising cattle prices and other agriculture issues will continue to affect the food supply chain for some time. He also thanked everyone who's "busting their tails" to make sure food is making it to people in need.
There's no telling just how much damage the extreme winter weather did, but it was clear we were dealing with something truly dangerous when reports started emerging of some farmers taking their animals into their homes to keep them alive.
Our partners at News 10 recently spoke with Gary Joiner of the Texas Farm Bureau, who said that while livestock losses did happen, there are a remarkable number of positive survival stories that show farmers and ranchers as a compassionate group who care for their animals deeply. Anyone who grew up in Texas or any rural area knows that's the case.
Joiner estimated damages to the agriculture sector could exceed $500,000,000 statewide.
“The bulk of that will be in the Rio Grande Valley where the fruits and vegetables grown there really took a hit,” Joiner told News 10. “Consumers will see an absence of some Texas products for a period of time because of the freeze.”
While producers outside of Texas will send what they can, it could be a while before we see things like Texas strawberries and citrus, along with leafy greens grown in the south, back in the produce section.
Tragically, it wasn't just farm animals who were in danger. Did you see this report about rescued primates at a San Antonio sanctuary freezing to death? These animals had been rescued from the research and entertainment industries. It's heartbreaking to know they were rescued from untold suffering only to go out like that.
The Wall Street Journal recently cited an Associated Press report attributing nearly 80 deaths to the winter storm, and we may not know just how many people died for quite a while.
If there's a silver lining here, it's that we saw so many reports of people across the Lone Star State helping their neighbors and their community both during and after the crisis, and more reports pop up every day. When things got dark and cold, Texans stepped up to support each other in ways both big and small.
Texas Strong, Texas Proud!