Weather

Nearly 80% of Texas experiencing drought conditions

A dry spring is causing agricultural issues as farmers work to produce more weather-resistant crops.

About 80% of Texas is currently experiencing some level of drought conditions, ranging from "moderate" to "exceptional."

The drought, which caused wildfires across the state earlier this year and prompted burn bans, is now negatively affecting farmers and ranchers.

A lack of rain during the spring resulted in lower crop production and decreased soil moisture levels, with no relief in sight.

"This is a tough situation," Tracy Tomascik from Texas Farm Bureau told Houston Matters on Monday, comparing this year to Texas' historic drought in 2011. "It's something that we hoped we'd all put in the back of our minds, but this year it has a little added sting to it."

Hay supply is down, and 78% of the wheat supply in Texas is in “poor” or “very poor” condition.

"It's as bad as it's been since 2011, if not worse," Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said about the state's wheat supply. "2011 was a wake-up call... I think that experience will be of considerable help this time around."

Tomascik said that farmers are monitoring their crops, focusing on drought-tolerant corn and grain crop varieties.

"To be in agriculture, you've got to constantly be flexible," Tomascik said.

Because of the shortage of hay, many ranchers and farmers are starting to sell their herds.

"In order to maintain good conservation practices on that land, livestock have to be reduced," Tomascik said, adding that the agricultural supply chain has faced disruptions as ingredients have been removed, straining the system.

"It's not just a Covid issue, it's a drought issue as well," Tomascik said of the supply chain troubles.

May and June are typically the wettest months of the year in Texas and are the prime months for plant growth. Hungry plants and no rain can quickly lead to a bad situation.

"It’s a flash drought," Nielsen-Gammon said about the combination of factors working together to cause Texas' current weather conditions and agricultural obstacles.

The drought is also causing water supply issues statewide as officials ask residents to conserve water.

"The way the weather pattern looks, it's going to be like that for a while," Nielsen-Gammon said.

While Houston has not been severely affected by drought conditions, Nielsen-Gammon said that could change.

"Coastal areas have been fairly dry, and with the high temperatures, the dryness is spreading over the whole area now."

Currently, more than 140 counties across Texas have implemented burn bans, including in neighboring Liberty, San Jacinto, Walker, Grimes, Waller and Galveston County.