In spite of significant but short-lived rain in late April, an escalating water shortage in Deep South Texas has most farmers comparing this early crop year to 2006 crop when the Lower Rio Grande Valley region suffered an estimated $50 million dollars in crop losses.

In fact, over two years of serious drought and an overdue delivery of water from Mexico that has caused additional water shortages have left both dryland producers and farmers who rely on irrigation wondering if 2013 crop losses will exceed historic levels, perhaps reaching as high as $100 million by the end of the year.

“In 2006, Valley dryland growers lost 75 percent of their cotton acreage, 86 percent of their corn acreage and 43 percent of their grain sorghum acres to drought,” says Dr. Luis Ribera, an AgriLife Extension agricultural economist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Weslaco.

He says back then cotton prices were 55 cents per pound, corn was at $2.35 per bushel and grain sorghum was $4.15 per hundredweight. Today’s market value would drive total losses much higher, possibly doubling losses experienced seven years ago.

While rain showers dumped significant rain on parts of the Valley last week, Brad Cowan, Extension agent for agriculture in Hidalgo County, says the beneficial rains are probably “too little too late.”

“It has been a combination of things working against us this year. Reservoirs to the north are extremely low and we are in our third consecutive year of drought. As a result, irrigation allotments have been drastically limited this year. In some cases, farmers have been told they will get only one irrigation,” he reports.

Recent rains have provided anywhere from an inch to six inches of water across the Valley, which Cowan says may help late planted cotton and sorghum, but it’s too early to tell whether the seed planted will germinate and sprout.

“Some growers remain hopeful they will get a crop to emerge, but even so, more water will be needed to bring the crop to harvest, and prospects for more water don’t look promising,” he added. Also an issue is water Mexico owes to the U.S. through a 1944 treaty.