Despite recent rainfall, 'damage done' for Tyler-area farmers and ranchers
Even with recent heavy and consistent rainfall as well as the forecast of a wetter-than-average September, the “damage is done” for farmers and ranchers in the Tyler and Longview areas.
“Without the rain, we have to catch up,” said Anthony Brown, Smith County Prairie View extension agent. “We’re catching up ... but the damage is already done.”
The Tyler area has received almost 22 inches of rainfall through the first two-thirds of the year, which is still about 5.5 inches below normal, according to the National Weather Service in Shreveport.
And the Longview area has received about 24 inches through August and remains 6 inches below normal, according to the weather service.
Recent rainfall, however, has eased and even erased some drought conditions in Smith and Gregg counties.
The U.S. Drought Monitor on Friday listed Smith County as about 71% “abnormally dry,” which is its lowest drought rating. About 26% of the county is in “moderate drought” conditions, while about 3% no longer is experiencing drought.
It’s even better news in Gregg County, with 56% of the county listed as “abnormally dry” and 44% now out of drought conditions.
“We do need continued timely and light to moderate rainfall for the remainder of this year — especially during September, October and November — to completely erase drought conditions across East Texas,” said National Weather Service Hydrologist C.S. Ross.
Many ranchers already have been forced to get rid of some cattle because of a lack of hay, Brown said, adding that some farmers’ crops were a loss, as well.
Many will have to wait until next year to make up for the losses, he added.
On average, a bale of hay typically costs $50 to $60, while that price now is $130 to $150, Brown said.
For the agriculture situation to right itself, “really, we need more rain than what we’re getting,” Brown said. “We’ve got some, but we still need a few more inches. That way we can catch back up on what we lost in the summertime.”
The one-month precipitation report released Wednesday showed the possibility for above normal rainfall in September for the Tyler-Longview area, Ross said, with about average rainfall expected through the remainder of 2022.
Ross said this year’s drought was far from the severity of the 2011 drought, which was from late May through September of that year and led to devastating wildfires across the state.
Although it may be too late to correct the damage done to farms and ranches this year, Brown recommends owners check their soil health to determine if fertilizer or other steps are needed to ensure next year will be profitable.
“We’re in the red now, but try to make as much profit next year with your crops,” he said. “That’s what I would say — offset some of those costs for next year.
He also recommends collecting rainwater to reduce water costs.
“It is starting to rain, and it’s probably going to continue to rain a lot, so I would say collect as much rain water as possible,” Brown said.