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?’ ”