“Losses here would have been staggering, not just in agriculture but throughout the area,” he said. “Had the levees not held, we likely would have lost all crops, not just this year, but for years to come.”

Agriculture in the four-county area of the Lower Rio Grande Valley accounts for $548 million in “gate receipts” to farmers, with an economic impact of $1.2 billion annually, according to Ribera.

Drought losses consumed roughly half of last year’s crops of cotton, corn and sorghum. Losses to the half million acres planted amounted to $19.13 million. In 2008, Hurricane Dolly cost growers just over $25 million in losses, according to the USDA.

“We did much better this year,” Ribera said. “Of the half million acres planted in cotton, corn and sorghum in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties, failed or lost acres were pegged at 48,068, or just under 10 percent, with a value of $2.9 million,” Ribera said.

Sorghum was the biggest loser at $1.9 million. Corn losses amounted to $322,000, while cotton losses totaled $642,000. Citrus and sugarcane crops are being harvested now. Any losses to those crops won’t be known until next year.

“The losses we did suffer are due to many factors, including weather and pests, but these are normal in ag production, basically due to the inherent risk of growing crops,” Ribera said.

Floodwaters strained the area’s flood-control system after Hurricane Alex made landfall in northern Mexico on June 30, followed by a tropical depression and heavy rainfall in South Texas shortly thereafter.

At the time, corn and sorghum had been harvested to varying degrees, but the 86,000-acre, $44 million South Texas cotton crop was just being defoliated. None had been harvested and was highly susceptible to being completely ruined by rainfall and/or flooding, he said.

Fortunately, only 4.5 percent of both irrigated and dryland cotton was lost, Ribera said.