He says little planted seed germinated this year. “Very little of the area’s corn, cotton or grain sorghum came out of the ground.” Most farmers will rely on insurance to cover part of their losses. And most made little last year or the year before.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Fromme says. “It seems to get worse every year. It is relentless.”

Less than 1 percent of the area’s cropland is irrigated, so persistent drought destroys any chance of making a crop.

It’s been hard on livestock producers as well. “Herd size has been reduced significantly or is non-existent,” Fromme says. “Some have sold out completely. It could take years to build herds back.”

Nueces, Jim Wells, Kleberg and the western part of San Patricio counties have been hardest hit. “The Valley is also in bad shape. Uvalde is bad. Just about everywhere is bad from here to Houston to Uvalde. The area north of Houston is in better shape.”

Farmers and ranchers have limited options. Fromme says range and livestock specialists have offered seminars on reducing herd size and bringing rangeland back into production. Row crop farmers have few options. “We can talk about alternative crops if we get rain late, but with the current forecast, that doesn’t look promising.”

Cover crops to protect the soil from wind erosion are not options since moisture is inadequate to support them. Fromme says a few farmers occasionally use sand fighters to limit blowing soil but they can’t do much to protect the land. “But the soil is resilient. If we get rain, it will respond.”

He says farmers also are a durable lot. “They just say, ‘there’s always next year.’ They are resilient, too.”


You may also like:

Soil drought expected to end; hydrologic drought to be long-term issue

Drought leaves 2013 growing season vulnerable

Valley farmers planting, but drought and wind cause early damage