For several decades running, a Rio Grande Valley newsletter has served as a dependable companion and guide to area farmers, bringing the latest ag news from across a region firmly rooted in crop production. Loaded with up-to-date information like insect populations, crop conditions and developing weather, subscribers anxiously anticipate each week’s new edition.

While the face of farming has changed in deep South Texas through the years, the newsletter, known far and wide as the Pest Cast, continues to inform area cotton and grain growers and remains in high demand by those who rely and trust the message it carries each week—delivered electronically and/or by mail.

“I first started editing the newsletter in the mid 70s, but it is possible it was started back in the late 1940s,” reports John Norman, retired entomologist with Texas AgriLife Extension. “Before me there was Jimmy Deere, and before that someone else and so on. I understand it was started by a grower somewhere before 1948 and eventually was taken over by the South Texas Cotton & Grain Association (STCGA) and eventually by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in the Valley.”

That’s how Norman, once again the newsletter editor, became involved with Pest Cast. Norman began his Extension service career in 1973. The following year he was assigned to the Weslaco Extension center where he worked until he retired in 2004.

“I was raised on a Valley farm and was familiar with the newsletter before I ever took over the task of putting it out each week, so picking it back up in retirement was something I was qualified to do, and when friends at the STCGA asked if I would carry on the tradition, it was an easy decision,” he said.

Norman says he is dedicated to the tradition of farming and the people who spend their lives producing America’s crops. Now a crop consultant in the Valley, Norman still runs into dedicated readers of the newsletter. In fact, he says the information he assembles and includes in each issue comes from farmers, millers, buyers and consultants and others associated with cotton and grain farming in South Texas.

“But our reach goes beyond the boundaries of the Valley,” he explained. “Just about anyone who wants to keep up with the latest conditions of South Texas cotton or grain find the newsletter, now mostly delivered electronically over the Internet, an important source.”

A few calls across the Valley quickly confirmed the continuing popularity of the newsletter. Sam Simmons and son farm cotton and grain in the Harlingen-Rangerville area. Sam swears by the newsletter and says he looks forward to each new issue.

“It provides a broad overview about what other farmers in the Valley are doing—what they are experiencing. It gives me a heads up on what I might expect in my fields to know what’s happening down the road or across the county,” Simmons told Farm Press.

“I’ve been a subscriber since about the time John took over the editor post in the 1970s. I still read it each week and find it very helpful in keeping up with crops throughout my area.”

Jerry Chappell, who farms about 5,000 acres of cotton and grain in the Harlingen area, agrees the newsletter is an important tool. “I get a lot of information from each issue. During the drought I have found it interesting to keep up with the number of heat units reported historically on farms in my region and used that as a gauge. And knowing what insects are a problem for other area farmers gives me the chance to get ready for the possibility of having the same problem in my fields before long,” he said.