Texas Farmers Suffer Extensive Crop Losses In Wake Of Harvey : The Salt Massive rainfall, winds and a slow drying-out process from Harvey have left many farmers overwhelmed and worried.
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Texas Farmers Suffer Extensive Crop Losses In Wake Of Harvey

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Texas Farmers Suffer Extensive Crop Losses In Wake Of Harvey

Texas Farmers Suffer Extensive Crop Losses In Wake Of Harvey

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In Texas, this was going to be one of the best years farmers had seen in a long time. The cotton crop was projected to bring in record prices and even clear out many families' debt. But as NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, the massive rainfall, winds and slow drying-out process have left many farmers overwhelmed and worried.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: At Al-T's Cajun seafood restaurant in Winnie, Texas, the place is packed even though lunchtime has long come and gone.

(CROSSTALK)

KAHN: No one is in a hurry to get back to their fields. They can't. They're flooded. David Murrell says nearly 400 acres of his rice are totally submerged.

DAVID MURRELL: There's not much we can do. We're still waiting on the water to go down so by road we can get into these fields. We've got - our roads cross a gulley out at the farm, and the water is still too deep for us to get through it.

KAHN: Luckily Murrell had just harvested some of his rice before Harvey dumped nearly 50 inches here. But fourth-generation cattle and rice farmer Gerald Bauer decided to bring his cows in first, then cut his rice crop. Unfortunately, he says, he miscalculated by one week.

GERALD BAUER: A normal year - we're fine. We can get in, cut it. We're not late. But Mother Nature decided we were late this year.

KAHN: For Adam Leger, who runs an aerial fumigation service with his brother, they won't know for weeks if any of their equipment is salvageable. Four of his crop dusters are under water at the local airport.

ADAM LEGER: I've never seen it - nothing like this. I don't think anybody in here has seen it.

KAHN: It will take months, maybe even a full year to get final figures on Texas' agriculture losses to Harvey. Gene Hall is with the Texas Farm Bureau.

GENE HALL: I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations.

KAHN: Roughly, Hall says, just looking at Cotton, Texas' number-two ag product, farmers lost at least a fifth of the crop.

HALL: We think that it could be as much as a $135 million.

KAHN: And Hall says for rice farmers, 20 percent of their crops are still stuck in the ground.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER SPLASHING)

KAHN: Rice farmer John Gaulding pulls on tall rubber boots up to his knees to get through the high water still filling his fields.

How high is this water we're standing in?

JOHN GAULDING: Oh - what? - about 8 inches.

KAHN: And how high did it actually get?

GAULDING: Up to the top.

KAHN: Which is about...

GAULDING: I'm going to say 30 to 36 inches.

KAHN: Gaulding, who's 71 and took over the rice business from his father, faces a frustrating situation. Rice stocks sit atop his plants, ready for harvest. With each passing day, though, the kernels get drier and drier while the bottom of the plant remains flooded, too wet to bring in any machinery.

GAULDING: The sad thing is, out of all of the fields we've harvested, this is a new variety to us, and it had the potential to be our highest-yielding.

KAHN: And unlike other rice producers who will plant a second crop later in the year, Gaulding farms crawfish on this field. The small crustaceans burrowed into the ground to hibernate. He won't know whether they survived and will re-emerge until next spring, possibly adding to his losses.

Farmers in Texas say they feel like the rural families and businesses have been forgotten in the rush to help the cities, especially Houston. They're even more worried they'll be left behind as attention turns to South Florida and Hurricane Irma's likely arrival in a few days. Right now, everyone here is just trying to be patient, like Marcia Bauer, who owns Texas Saltgrass, the local feed store in Winnie. She says half of her monthly income is from credit she gives out.

MARCIA BAUER: And it's not just me that's being affected. 'Cause we are such a small, rural community, a lot of the businesses carry the farmers.

KAHN: She sent out her statements the day before the town flooded. Hopefully, she says, the farmers finally got her bill now that mail service is back up and running. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Winnie, Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF VALERIE JUNE SONG, "WORKIN' WOMAN BLUES")

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