Hurricane Harvey Hits Hard on Texas Crops

By Teaganne Finn

Hurricane Harvey will do widespread and extensive damage to crops, with cotton and rice taking the worst hit, farming experts estimate.

The storm made landfall on Aug. 25 and rapidly spread across the state’s Gulf Coast to the northeast of Corpus Christi, Texas. That will affect the two crops most. The historic storm has already brought devastating amounts of rain, shut down roads and stranded residents.

Cotton and rice crops mature later in the year making this period critical to harvests, Texas Farm Bureau communications director, Gene Hall told Bloomberg BNA.

After speaking to farmers and officials in crop extensions, Hall said he was able to make a limited estimate of the damage that was done. In the area around Corpus Christi, there are 300,000 acres of cotton crops and 97 percent have been harvested, said Hall, “leaving about 5,000 acres left with damages.”

And along the upper Gulf Coast there was one report that Wharton County had harvested only 35 percent of its cotton harvest, “so damage could be more extensive,” said Hall.

Dennis DeLaughter, market analyst with Vantage RM LLC, said he has two rice farms he can’t even get to but had harvested all of his crops before Harvey hit.

“Areas south and east of Houston are where large amounts of rice crop are and some guys I haven’t even been able to talk to,” said DeLaughter who is speculating the level of damage at this point.

Alan Gaulding, a rice farmer in Texas, said 20 percent of his first crop rice had been left in the field and there could be a hit to the second crop rice, which is usually harvested in October. He has never had rice flooded before and is unsure of what will happen.

The House Agriculture Committee spokesperson, Mollie Wilken told Bloomberg BNA they are monitoring the situation.

Crop Insurance Concerns

The Agriculture Department sent a press release in preparation for Hurricane Harvey that referred producers with coverage to their crop insurance agent and said those who purchased crop insurance will be paid for covered losses. But crop insurance agents say not all losses will be covered.

Raford Hargrove, agent at Hargrove Crop Insurance said the coverage typically insures a level of production of about 75 percent of the farmers actual average for the last 10 years. However, according to Hargrove, the cotton crop was expected to be much larger, perhaps at 150 percent production, therefore farms will only get half of their total value back.

“Crop insurance is of immense value in helping weather a storm like this, but it falls far short of the bumper crop expected,” said Hargrove.

Some farmers will be able to bounce back in a year and for some this will be their last year. “Crop insurance gives stability,” said Heller and farmers just need to be patient, Don Heller, agent and partner at AG Crop Insurance Inc. told Bloomberg BNA.

The USDA Office of Communications told Bloomberg BNA in an email that the federal government is focused on safety efforts and when they switch to recovery and rebuilding they will be ready to help throughout the long rebuilding process.

To contact the reporter on this story: Teaganne Finn in Washington at tfinn@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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