No surprise, and there’s not really much that can be done right now, but if this year was bad for farmers, next year could well be worse.
Texas needs rain — and needs it quickly — to keep farmers and ranchers from suffering even bigger losses next year from the drought that already has left them with record-breaking losses this year, producers said Friday in San Antonio.
Corn growers in Texas could encounter even bigger losses in 2012 after seeing output fall by 40 percent this year; and rice plantings, which fell by only 2 percent this year, could be cut nearly in half if more water does not become available soon, officials said.
“It could drive us to acreage levels we’ve probably not seen in 80 years or more,” said Ronald Gertson, a Wharton-area rice farmer who was on a panel at the San Antonio International Farm & Ranch Show that was looking at the state’s water needs. “Without some serious rain in the next two months, we’re going to be at that 50 percent level.”
Agricultural irrigation uses about half of the water that is consumed in Texas annually, and about 80 percent of that comes from groundwater resources, said Ed Vaughan of Boerne, who chairs the Texas Water Development Board.
With the state’s population nearly doubling by 2060, Texas will need more water resources to meet all its agricultural, industrial and municipal needs, Vaughan said.
He and state Rep. Lyle Larson, a San Antonio Republican who presented a legislative update at Friday’s symposium, said desalination of brackish water presents the best opportunity for increasing water supplies because brackish water projects can be completed faster and for less money than other options.
With forecasters saying the drought may not break until mid-2013 — and that the next 15 years could be drier than normal — the state has to get serious about expanding its water supply or both agriculture and Texas’ industrial base will suffer, Larson said.
Which will cost money, lots of it, and as we have seen the Lege and our Republican leadership are not too keen on that. Maybe another year of bad times will change some minds about that, but you would think that it shouldn’t be necessary.