February remained dry as a powder keg across South Texas. March blew in like a furious lion.
None of the weather forecasters are predicting the end to strong cold fronts or a shift from dry conditions to "wetter than normal" conditions anytime soon.
As planting time arrives in the Coastal Bend area, row crop farmers are once again trying to second-guess Mother Nature. Here are the basic choices: (1) Plant now in marginal moisture and risk getting a marginal stand that will produce less than optimum yields. (2) Wait a week or two longer in hopes of some beneficial moisture that will ensure getting a vigorous stand of seedling plants. (3) If no rain occurs before the spring planting window closes, "dry plant," say a few more prayers, and hope for the best.
Dry winters have been a re-occurring situation for area farmers during the past few years. No matter how much practice a farmer gets at second-guessing Mother Nature, the success rate doesn't seem to improve with experience. The bottom line is that without ample soil moisture, area farmers and ranchers are going to bat with two strikes against them as the spring season arrives.
Those livestock producers who enrolled in the new range and pasture risk-management insurance last year could view that decision as one of the best risk-management hedges they have made in a long time. Granted, it was difficult for me to write that premium check last fall.
Back then the ground was still saturated and grass was knee high. Everyone wanted to believe we would never have another dry spell. But sending that insurance renewal payment has proven to be well worthwhile.
In early February, a claims check arrived via my agent. It was a great help in covering the cattle's supplemental feeding expenses during these dry winter months.
Amazing, but as promised, claims payments were timely and without paperwork or visits from teams of adjusters. This new program bases claims loss payments on the National Weather Service's accounts of rain, more precisely the lack of rainfall, in geographic grid areas as compared to the precipitation that is historically received in that area during a two-month interval.
If you were not aware of this new range and pastureland program, contact a local crop insurance provider or your Extension Service Agent for details on the next sign-up period. A number of fine decision aid programs can assist producers in selecting the best coverage choices for their particular situation and location.
The Trans-Texas Corridor returned to the spotlight during February. A series of hearings and town hall meetings were conducted in South Texas counties in the targeted pathways for the I-69 / TTC tollway.
I attended two of the county hearings to learn more about the results of the Texas Department of Transportation's Environmental Impact Statement and its preferred corridor routes recommended for the Tier Two study.
The majority of those in attendance were rural landowners and concerned agricultural producers. Among farmers and ranchers at these Trans-Texas Corridor hearings, this project is just about as popular as a seven-year drought.
I was surprised to learn that one of our nation's largest big city newspapers, The New York Times, sent reporter Ralph Blumenthal and photographer Michael Stravato to Robstown to cover the town hall meeting on the Trans-Texas Corridor.
Two of my neighbors, Dean Nesloney and Leon Little, happened to be seriously studying the maps on display at this meeting when approached by the Times photographer. They granted permission for a photo and later participated in a brief interview with the reporter.
At the time they had no idea that this photo would be the focal point of a full-page feature article in the Feb. 10 edition of The New York Times. That article was entitled "Proposal in Texas for a Public-Private Toll Road System Raises an Outcry."
Mr. Blumenthal did an excellent job with this story. If you would like to read his feature, try an Internet search. It is very informative and well worth reading.
Harvey Buehring is the former Agricultural Extension Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at (361) 767-5223.