NUECES COUNTY, Texas — Scott Frazier is a local farmer in western Nueces County.
South of Agua Dulce, Frazier has a field of corn and sorghum. He plans on starting to harvest the sorghum in the next week, the corn in the next few weeks.
However, Frazier anticipates he will only get about 25 percent of the crop yield out of his field that he hoped for.
“Corn that should be making four, five, six-thousand pounds out here, we’ll be lucky if this makes one thousand pounds per acre,” he said.
The problem? Drought.
“About a month ago, this field here had probably two inches, and that was the only rain of significance since probably mid-December,” Frazier said.
The nearest National Weather Service reporting station, located in Robstown, reports the area has received 4.7 inches of rain through May this year, which is around half the average rainfall for the area since 2000 in the same time frame: 8.77 inches.
“If we get a couple of rains during the season — they don’t have to be big rains during our growing season — we can make a respectable crop,” Frazier said. “If we were to get five, six, seven inches over 2-3 different rains, we could get a good crop. So, it’s all about timing and volume.”
Frazier said most farmers have crop insurance that protects them from poor seasons, but the disappointing yield, coupled with the high price of fuel and fertilizer, could be difficult for some.
“We’ll be lucky if we get enough out of it to break even,” he said. “But it certainly could force someone to be pushed out, no doubt.”
Jaime Lopez, with the Texas A&M AgriLife Nueces County Extension, said things are better for farmers in the eastern part of the county, but overall, this year’s harvest is not promising.
Lopez says 60 percent of cotton in Nueces County is not usable, 60 percent of corn in the county is “very poor,” and while most sorghum fields yield 4,500-5,000 pounds of good yield per acre, a lot of fields are in the 750-pound range
Lopez said the situation is, “pretty much a disaster, with regards to corn.”
With a few weeks until corn harvest, even the possibility of rain in the forecast, is too late.
“This corn has pretty well done what it’s going to do. What we’ve got is what we’ve got, it won’t come back this year,” Frazier said.
Frazier anticipates this poor harvest could trickle down to consumers later in the year. The corn and sorghum grown locally is mostly used as livestock feed, and this could push up prices and create shortages.
“All that business trickles down to the community here, it will affect everybody locally here eventually,” he said. “I do think some underprivileged folks in our area, as food prices soar, availability gets a little tighter, I do think you’ll see folks missing some meals.”
Frazier said last year’s harvest was strong, and farmers aren’t unfamiliar with droughts like this year’s, so he anticipates most local farmers will be okay.
“We will run into a drought like this locally once every ten years or so,” he said. “It’s something I think normally we can pull through. Most farmers have seen it before, we’ll live through it.”