There's no quick recovery in the wake of any significantly strong hurricane. Even tropical storms and Category 1 hurricanes are no small thing, and when such extreme weather events are at Category 3 and beyond - with winds between 111 and 129 miles per hour, according to the Saffir-Sampson scale used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - true devastation is all but guaranteed. Owners of farming, ranching and hunting land in Texas, particularly the southeastern areas not far from the Gulf Coast, know this all too well, many having experienced major hurricanes like Rita and Ike, in 2005 and 2008, respectively.
"Hurricane Harvey and other extreme weather did plenty of damage to agribusiness operations in southeast Texas."
Flash-forward to late summer 2017, which brings us to the landfall of Hurricane Harvey (and later Hurricane Irma, albeit to a lesser extent) on the exact region of TX land mentioned above. Many homeowners and business owners sustained property-value losses that reached into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and beyond.
Also, it's important to note that Harvey wasn't the only problematic spot of weather to hit the Lone Star State: Wildfires also struck hard, starting in March of this year and continuing sporadically beyond that. Today, we'll take a closer look at the damage done by these unfortunate natural disasters and also examine how the state's farmers may be planning to rebuild their operations.
Cotton farmers suffer particularly great damage
As noted by NBC News, Texas is the biggest producer of cotton in the U.S., and the greater Bay City area, along and adjacent to the Gulf Coast, stands out as the state's second-biggest source of the massively important cash crop. Because of how hard Harvey's winds, rains and floods assailed this region, its cotton farmers suffered perhaps more than any other segments of the agribusiness field.
Ginger and Richard Beyer, who oversee a farming operation that encompasses 3,000 acres north of Houston in Matagorda County - 1,300 of which are devoted to cotton production - saw at least 25 inches of rain saturate their cotton fields during Harvey's worst days, beginning Aug. 25 and lasting almost into September. Richard Beyer told NBC that he expected cotton losses totaling at least $250,000, and potentially greater than that.
Farmers hope to endure through adversity
"We'll go in and harvest what we can," Beyer said. "There's so much we can't take into consideration, like quality and weight loss." He went on to explain that the farm he and his wife jointly operate didn't lose its rice, sorghum, corn and milo crops, and Beyer also believed that the soybeans and even some cotton could still be harvested.
Another cotton farmer in Matagorda County, Robbie Reed, lost well over 450 acres of his land in the storm, NBC reported. He and his son, also a farmer, knew they had sustained about $500,000 in inventory losses, and believed that total might go up once they could conduct a full assessment of everything.
"It's not anything we've ever seen," Reed said to NBC. "We've got tropical storms, we've got flooding issues before, but nothing like this."
Perhaps most frustrating to these cotton growers - and potentially alarming to those interested in Texas farms for sale - is that many of these producers believed 2017 would be a great year to rebound from 2016's mediocre results. Last year saw poor weather that greatly reduced cotton output, and while 2017 allowed plenty to be sowed, much of it couldn't be reaped due to the storm.
The depredation of the wildfires
Months before the unfortunate arrival of these storms, numerous Texas farmers had another problem on their hands - uncontrollable wildfires. According to Southwest FarmPress, these blazes first showed up in March, but continued, albeit sporadically, through spring and all the way into late summer. Similar fires also surfaced in Oklahoma throughout the same general period.
The ultimate effects of wildfire on Texas alone total out to destroyed acres of feed-producing pasture and hay numbering in the tens of thousands, as well as more than 5,000 head of cattle lost or otherwise displaced. But when combined over Oklahoma and Texas alike, Southwest FarmPress reported that the figure of acres destroyed or seriously damaged reached closer to a million.
As stated by the Houston Chronicle, factors such as aquifer overuse, the patterns of suburban and metropolitan development in Texas and the effects climate change, when considered together, have all contributed to the greater damage done by recent hurricanes. Similarly, rising temperatures and more frequent droughts play a role in wildfire development. Farmers who value their land, crops and the pleasures of country living will need to pay close attention to weather patterns going forward, if they hope to be appropriately prepared for the next natural disaster.