Dry, dusty outlook: Rainless days hard on Valley farmers

HARLINGEN — As if low commodity prices weren’t enough, Rio Grande Valley farmers are facing a weather whipsaw from heavy rains last fall to very dry conditions this spring.

And these rainless days have complicated spring planting.

Planting is important to the economic well-being of South Texas. In the four-county Lower Rio Grande Valley, agriculture has an annual economic impact of $1.6 billion, according to a 2011 study by Texas agriculture economists.

Texas ranks third nationally in annual agriculture cash receipts at $19.2 billion. California is first at $36.2 billion and Iowa second at $24.75 billion.

The last major rainfall recorded at Valley International Airport in Harlingen occurred on Jan. 2 when 1.16 inches of rain fell.

A residual rain of .017 inch was recorded Jan. 3.

That is significantly lower than the average rainfall for January through March in the Valley, which ranges from 2.5 inches a year in Starr County to an average of 4.5 inches a year on the Gulf Coast.

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