Hurricane Harvey Taking Aim at Rice Fields

Traffic jam of harvesters in a rice field in TX prior to Hurricane Harvey
Texas harvest on warp speed ahead of Hurricane Harvey
Aug 25, 2017
WHARTON COUNTY, TX – All eyes are nervously on Hurricane Harvey that is growing in intensity in the Gulf of Mexico and could make landfall in Texas later tonight or tomorrow morning, but the timing of the storm may spare much of the rice crop in the area – too late to catch conventional, and too early to catch the ratoon crop.

“This year Texas farmers planted 170,000 acres of rice and I venture we’ve gotten 85 percent – maybe even 90 percent – out already,” said El Campo rice farmer LG Raun.  “You have quite a bit of organic still in the field, but conventional rice is, for the most part, already in the bins and the second crop isn’t headed yet.”

Timothy Gertson of Lissie, had finished harvesting his rice last week and spent the last several days helping other farmers harvest their rice.

“Nobody’s equipment has been idle – if it wasn’t moving, it was broken,” he said.  “Some folks made the decision to harvest with a little more moisture than they would like, but better to get the crop in the bin than risk losing it all if the storm is a direct hit.”

Slightly closer to the coast is Daniel Berglund who says he and his crews were cutting until 4:30 in the morning yesterday to finish up his conventional rice.

“I still have some rice and some beans in the field that weren't ready to harvest, but not a lot I can do about that,” he said.  “Rain earlier in the year put us about 10 days behind and I would have liked another day here now to work, but now that the rain has started, I’m securing the house, property, and equipment.”

All three farmers agreed that while storm surge and excessive rain could be a problem, the real tragedy looming is on the local cotton crop.

“Everyone I talk to says the cotton crop here this year is the biggest and most beautiful they can remember,” Gertson said.  “And they have not been able to get that much out even though they have been working around the clock for a week.”

“At this point we need to wait and see what happens,” Berglund said.  “There’s been a range on how much water they think we’ll get, but we can handle quite a bit – we’ve gotten 25 inches in 48 hours before and come out fine.  They’re saying some areas could get 30.  We’ll need to get it off as quickly as we can and hope this doesn’t turn into a weeklong thing.”

In neighboring southwest Louisiana the situation is similar with more than 90 percent of rice harvested, but concerns center on storm surge and water staying on fields for an extended period of time.