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TEXAS VIEW: Storm’s ag impact will require patience, support - Odessa American: Texas Opinion

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TEXAS VIEW: Storm’s ag impact will require patience, support

THE POINT: Winter storm could be the costliest disaster in state history.

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Posted: Thursday, March 4, 2021 2:30 am

Some early assessments of the damage wrought the winter storm on the state’s agricultural sector are coming into view with reports of staggering crop losses in some areas and total production shutdowns in others that are expected to have varying impacts on the supply chain for months to come.

This should come as no surprise. Two storms within a few days of each other kept temperatures well below freezing while spreading snow, ice and dangerous wind chills across the state in an extensive weather event that touched all 254 Texas counties to some degree.

It will be some time before a final tally is reached. The human impact was immense with dozens killed as a result of the storm while an estimated 4 million were left without power and another 15 million experienced water supply issues. A Texas Tribune story last week indicated it could be the costliest disaster in state history, which would mean more than the $125 billion in damage following Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

“All 254 counties will have been impacted in some way by the freeze,” Lee Loftis, director of government affairs for the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas, told the Tribune. “That is just unheard of.”

It marks the second time in a year consumers could be dealing with product shortages, following the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring that sparked panic buying which took a toll on the shelves of local grocers. As was the case then, we urge consumers to be patient as these supply kinks are worked out and to continue supporting the vital work of producers throughout Texas.

The dairy industry that is an important part of the Panhandle’s agricultural economy did not escape the storm’s wrath as natural gas supply disruptions took dairies offline, meaning they will need time to ramp back up. According to industry experts, Panhandle dairies account for 80% of the state’s milk supply. The short-term result could be shortages of milk and other products such as cream cheese and ice cream in local grocery stores.

“Tomorrow, or in two days or whatever the schedule is, a truck will come and then it’ll empty again and it’ll be like that for some time until we get production met back up,” Darren Turley, executive director of the Texas Association of Dairymen, told the Tribune. “The industry itself will feel it for some time.”

Fortunately, the state’s beef and cattle production is expecting to experience only short-term storm impact. Producers say there were livestock lost as a result of the storm, but there is enough supply in place to account for the losses.

Downstate, the picture is gloomy. The Rio Grande Valley citrus crops were ravaged by the cold temperatures with grapefruit and Valencia oranges bearing the brunt of damage, according to the Tribune’s report. More than half the region’s grapefruit are reportedly lost, and Valencia oranges are essentially a total loss. The impacts, industry experts say, will last well into next year.

“As a grower, I would appeal to consumers to stick with us and, when we do get back on the shelf, please support us,” Dale Murden, president of the Texas Citrus Mutual based in Hidalgo County, told the Tribune.

We agree with this sentiment that should help remind Texans of the sizable economic impact represented by the state’s agricultural producers.

Odessa, TX

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