The Lubbock area’s farmers realized conditions had reached critical proportions before Tuesday’s declaration by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack naming all of Texas as eligible to apply for Farm Service Agency assistance.
Mike Swain, who farms south of Brownfield and also is a Terry County commissioner, said he has logged 35/100ths of an inch of rain since Oct. 21.
“I will be real honest, I don’t need a loan – I need rain,” Swain said.
Vilsack’s disaster designation for 213 counties, along with their contiguous counties, means farm operators in all 254 counties may turn to the FSA because of the conditions of “drought, excessive heat, high winds and wildfires.”
The designation makes emergency loan assistance available for eight months.
“FSA will consider each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses, security available, and repayment ability,” the announcement states.
Farmers also may file applications in 2012 for 2011 crop losses under the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program.
Tyson Knight, who farms in Lubbock and Hale counties, said, “I’ve never seen it as dry as this year has been. We’ve had some dry years, but we’ve always had some wintertime moisture.”
About 60 percent of his farming operation is on irrigated land, with the other 40 percent dryland.
Knight predicts the irrigated crops will make money this year, but the dryland, where cotton never came up, will zero out.
Steve Verett, executive vice president of Plains Cotton Growers, said, “It is good that the USDA has recognized the serious nature of the drought in Texas. Agriculture needs to have available all programs that could be helpful in trying to make it through these unprecedented conditions.”
According to U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Lubbock, the USDA has taken the correct action to help farmers and ranchers mitigate damage caused by wildfires and drought.
“I hope that FEMA will quickly follow suit and declare a major disaster declaration for affected Texas counties,” he said.
Cattle farmers hurt, too.
“A lot of people have lost their livestock, their homes, their fencing. Fencing costs anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 a mile, depending on how you do it,” said Swain.
“I have neighbors down here who say if it doesn’t rain by the Fourth of July, they’re going to have to sell their cow herd. And they’ve been years building it up.
“Beef may become a real luxury, instead of ‘Hey, what’s for dinner?’ ”
Swain farms 4,000 acres, mostly devoted to cotton. He has irrigation wells, but in the extremes of the current drought, the wells can’t keep up with the need.
“I am pulling two pumps to get back to where I can water … and to what end? There’s no way I can stay with it without some help from Mother Nature,” Swain said.
He thinks of the disastrous conditions in a context that is becoming national in scope. People all over have suffered from too much water or not enough, and the nation’s bread basket seems to have suffered the most, Swain said.
“Nothing destroys like water and fire. The good Lord used water the first time, and they say he’s going to use fire the second time. Those must be the two best – he would know.
“They totally and utterly destroy.”
And the drought extends below the surface, Swain said.
“We dug a sceptic tank the other day – the lateral lines go down 7 feet – and there was absolutely no moisture. They were pulling out clods half the size of the hood of a car.
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“It’s just another random event, like the last one we told you about, be sure that you don’t associate it with the deadliest April on record for tornado deaths, or any of the weather disaster records being set this year across the entire continent… well, actually across the entire planet. Clearly it’s not connected to anything.”
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