Texas farmers, ranchers and growers have a lot to be thankful for this November, but they still face many challenges, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

“Much of the state got excellent rains over the weekend, and if they have winter wheat out or winter pastures, that rainfall will go a long way toward taking those crops through the winter,” said Dr. Travis Miller, interim associate director for AgriLife Extension state operation, College Station. “These rains are very beneficial in recharging moisture in soil profiles and providing water for stock tanks and other surface water supplies.

“But looking at the overall picture, despite the rainfall, there are still some very dry conditions out there, leading to a number of issues relating to crop and water supply,” Miller said.

One challenge farmers must currently contend with is depressed prices for crops, he said.

“That encompasses most of the major crops we grow, including all the feed grains and cotton,” Miller said. “Corn and sorghum and cotton prices are low. Wheat prices are not quite as low, but they’ve dropped too. So growers are looking for alternatives that might make them a little money.”

The other challenge is one farmers and ranchers face every year: low water supplies and drought, he said.
“Irrigated agriculture depends largely on water supplies,” Miller said. “We have to look at not only how much we have in the soil profile, but also our surface water supplies, such as reservoirs, lakes, rivers and stock ponds.”

Despite 2014 being a much wetter year than the four previous years, a lot of surface water supplies that agriculture depends upon remain low, Miller said. For example, the Colorado River Authority is seeking permission to deny water for rice production for a fourth year in a row on the Gulf Coast. That’s due to lack of rain in the Highland Lakes area northwest of Austin.

There are also significant water supply issues in the Rolling Plains, he said.

Long-term solutions include upgrading water delivery systems so they are more efficient at minimizing water loss than current canals and ditches, such as ongoing projects by AgriLife Extension irrigation specialists, Miller said.