Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Texas drought getting national attention

National media have finally joined state and local newscasts in covering the continuing drought that’s suffocating much of the Lone Star State. FOX, CNN and the Wall Street Journal have all contacted us at the Texas Department of Agriculture to comment on these extreme conditions.

The questions have generally been the same – how bad is it? And our response is simple – the Texas drought is having a devastating impact on agriculture, and could soon impact all Americans. With Texas leading the nation in the production of cattle, cotton, sheep, goats, hay and many other of life’s necessities, our state problem has now become a national concern. And that’s why I believe it’s important to remind the rest of the nation of the exceptionally difficult circumstances our farmers and ranchers are facing, and that what happens to them will affect the entire nation.

Texas water consumers are also suffering. To date, 230 public water systems have imposed mandatory water restrictions, including those located in major cities such as Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin. The dry conditions have become so severe in Liberty Hill (a Central Texas town) that residents there have been told not to water at all, for fear that they may not have enough water to drink.

The drought monitor indicates that 16.5 percent of Texas is considered “exceptional” – the worst category for drought. Just think, we have about 170 million acres in Texas, and this means the land area in this most critical stage is roughly 28 million acres. Folks, that is larger than the states of Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia combined!

Again, the situation here in Texas is dire, and that’s why I’ve called on our federal partners to provide our producers with some very much-needed permanent disaster programs, which were passed in the 2008 Farm Bill and have not yet been fully implemented. I’ve also requested the use of Conservation Reserve Program lands for emergency grazing and haying.

Indeed, times are tough, but thank goodness, so are Texans.

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