Harvey’s winds and rain disrupt Texas agriculture

Like many of his neighbors, Robby Reed had high hopes for his cotton fields in 2017.

“It was going to be my best cotton crop year ever,” said Reed, who raises a variety of crops on some 2,500 acres outside of Bay City, about 80 miles southwest of Houston. “Everybody was making big cotton crops.”

Then along came Harvey.

The hurricane-turned-tropical storm devastated a wide swath along Texas’ Coastal Bend. Flooding from the relentless rains sent five feet of water into Reed’s two-story house and swamped his only partially harvested cotton fields.

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“Everything else is just, you know, kind of wasted,” the 39-year-old said this week. 

Harvey did more than transform cityscape by turning highways into rivers; It also upended life for farmers and ranchers across dozens of counties that Gov. Greg Abbott declared disaster zones. The powerful winds and rains destroyed crops, displaced livestock and disrupted trade.

Texas typically exports nearly one-fourth of the country’s wheat and a major portion of its corn and soybeans, according to the state Department of Agriculture, but a shutdown of ports ahead of Harvey halted export.

At least 1.2 million beef cows graze in in 54 counties Abbott had added to his disaster list as of Tuesday, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. State and industry officials did not immediately have data on how many were lost, but news reports and social media have circulated images of wandering cattle and dramatic rescues of the animals from floodwaters. 

“There have been a lot of wonderful stories going around on social media of people banding together to help save one another’s livestock,” Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller said in statement. “I want to send a great big thank you to these folks for doing things the Texas way, which is to be a great neighbor and help those in need.”

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