As far as I am concerned, the issue of long-term climate change is still up for debate.
But with that said, South Texas weather watchers can't deny that for the past three years, our weather patterns have deviated from our typical mild and moist spring conditions, followed by hot and dry summers.
Case-in points are the very dry and windy spring conditions experienced during the past few years. For those involved in agriculture it has become a disturbing trend. Farmers and ranchers in the southern part of Texas count on April and May rainfall to get crops and grasslands off to a good start.
Without a couple of timely inches each of those two months the probability of having a productive year declines rapidly.
Once again, a very dry winter and spring got 2008 off to a rough start. That resulted in thousands of dry land acres planted in the lower Coastal Bend failing to produce a stand of cotton. If it were not for one beneficial rain in mid-April, most of the Coastal Bend would have been on the brink of another drought disaster by the end of June.
That one April rain event provided just a few tenths of an inch more than the two inches that is typically received in the Corpus Christi area during that month. But this was a very timely rain that was fairly widespread.
Furthermore the amounts were significant enough to give crops the moisture to produce grain heads and cotton bolls on the farms and stimulate some late spring grass growth for the livestock producers.
But May and June turned very dry. In fact, May was -2.22 inches below normal and June ended with a -2.83 inch rainfall deficiency at the Corpus Christi International Airport. Locations to the south and west received even less precipitation.
That brings us to July. And here is a very noticeable change. This is the third year in a row that July has ushered in a string of rainy days that have produced enough rainfall during the first week of the month to surpass the 30 year long-term monthly average.
In fact, if this climatic trend continues for a few more years, South Texans may change the old saying of "Hotter than the Fourth of July" to "Wetter than the Fourth of July."
A check of the National Weather Service's rainfall records for Corpus Christi bears out this observation. During the first seven days of July 2006 there were six days that produced measurable precipitation for a seven-day total of 4.36 inches.
Last year the first of July marked the beginning of a "monsoon week" with daily measurable precipitation and a total of 13.87 inches received at the Corpus Christi Airport during that week.
Once again, in 2008, each of the first seven days has produced measurable precipitation, but in more modest amounts in Corpus Christi. This year's seven day total at that recording station was only 2.94 inches for the first week of July, but still above the 30 year average which is 2 inches for the month.
Many locations in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the deep South Texas Brush Country recorded heavier amounts during the first week of July 2008.
For those with livestock, these rains were months overdue and extremely welcome. In many cases this early July rainy period prevented some anticipated livestock liquidations in the more drought stressed locations.
And for those involved in the crop farming side of South Texas agriculture, July rains once again prompt concerns and mixed feelings. Concerns include the effect weathering may have on the harvest ability and quality of sorghum and corn that remains in the fields awaiting harvest. Mixed feelings result since the week of moisture has provided some positive relief to drought stress cotton, as well as, late-planted grain sorghum, sunflowers, and sesame crops.
Hopefully, the concerns will disappear if predictions for dry sunny conditions returning to the Coastal Bend become a reality before the end of the second week of July.
A few weeks back, Bobby King who was involved in the grain storage and marketing business in Robstown for many years, inquired about "parity prices" for agricultural commodities and whether the rapid escalation in grain prices during the past two years had managed to reach the "parity price level."
For those not familiar with the "parity" concept, it is the inflation adjusted price, over time, using average prices from pre-World War I (1910 - 1914), as a basis for what they should be worth in present day dollars.
According to the June 12 edition of Texas Agricultural Facts, a joint publication of the Texas Department of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the May 2008 parity price for corn was set at $8.25 per bushel while the average Texas cash price was pegged at $5.12 per bushel in May.
Grain sorghum had a calculated parity price in May of $14.70 per hundred pound, while the cash price was reported at $9.18 per hundred. Wheat's parity price in May was calculated at $13.10 per bushel while the cash price averages for the month were reported at $8.80 across Texas.
As mentioned in earlier articles related to record high fuel and grain commodity prices, we need to reach a equitable price for agricultural commodities, particularly those that have a degree inter-dependency on each other, such as that of feed grains and meat and milk production.
The May parity price was calculated at $2.50 per pound for live weight beef cattle, while the cash price averaged 90 cents during May in Texas.
At May parity prices slaughter weight hogs should bring $1.37 per pound while the average cash market price was reported at just more than 54 cents per pound on a live weight basis.
Hopefully, in the months ahead energy prices will begin to stabilize and production and transportation costs can regain some degree of stability that will allow farming and meat production enterprises to get a handle on production costs and reach a level of mutual profitability.
Until next time, enjoy the green pastures - while they last.
Harvey Buehring is the former Agricultural Extension Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at (361) 767-5223.