Like most years, 2013 offered a mixed bag of good and not-so-good news and developments for agriculture across the American Southwest. From feast to famine, so to speak, positive and negative developments affected people and profits on the farm and ranch.

At the end of 2013 many of us will be looking ahead with hopes of discovering ways we can make the new year a better one, both in terms of personal and professional gain. But most of us, or as my father would say, the most wise of us, will no doubt be looking back over our accomplishments and shortcomings of the past 12 months in hopes of being better prepared for what may come.

Some things, of course, we cannot change. Topping the list of the most important developments for Southwest agriculture this year has probably been the change in the weather, one of those developments that simply happens beyond our control.

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While drought conditions still rule in many areas and water, or the lack thereof, remains a high and pressing priority for all of agriculture, for many the return of more normal rain patterns has been a major break in a long-term drought. The rains may not last, but for at least some, a reversal of drought conditions has saved the farm.

This is certainly true for alfalfa growers in southern New Mexico. Even across large areas of the Southwest, late summer and substantial fall rains have made the difference between making money or losing it, even if the rains fell short of enough or too late to boost profits. At least for now, thanks to the rains of 2013, many farmers and ranchers are expressing a degree of hope for the new year.

On the down side of the water issue, however, rice farmers in Coastal Texas continue to fight with both nature and urban-backed politicians who seem to be doing everything they can to cancel senior water rights of agriculture in Texas in favor of washing cars, greening yards and floating recreational boats at the Highland Lakes of Texas.

It's not the only region still concerned about water. The Southern Plains remained concerned about ample water for irrigation and dryland farmers from the Coastal Bend and Texas Rio Grande Valley to the Texas Winter Garden region, along with livestock producers and farmers in West Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, are all still concerned about water availability simply because even if it rained a lot in your rural neighborhood this year, it's still probably not enough to last through 2014.

When it comes to rivers, lakes, and stock and irrigation tanks, water remains one of the best and worst developments of the last year, depending on where you farm or ranch and how the weather fared.