The following information is a Web Extra from the pages of Farm Journal. It corresponds with the article "Ike Rattles Texas Ag” by Jeanne Bernick. You can find the article on page 54 of the September 2008 issue.
Hurricane Ike's 110 mile per hour winds may be gone, but the impact lingers in Texas and Louisiana.
The Category 2 hurricane that tore through agricultural land and water ended up killing and displacing thousands of cattle in Texas. The storm ravaged Galveston Bay's shrimp and oyster industry by damaging reefs, boats and docks. More than half of the oysters sold in the Eastern U.S. come from Texas and Louisiana.
Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples says he expects millions of dollars in losses for farmers, ranchers and fishermen. "I think the estimates into the billions are not unrealistic,” Staples told the Houston Chronicle on September 28, 2008. "For some individual producers, this could be the end of their livelihood.”
At press time, the Port of Galveston is still in recovery mode but expected to be open to vessel traffic and limited cargo vessel operations the first week of October.
Louisiana cattle hang on. Next door in Louisiana, Andrew Granger, Vermilion Parish county agent Andrew Granger says the number of cattle affected by Hurricane Ike is less than following Rita. That's because cattle owners moved their herds ahead of the storms, and the number of cattle in the southern part of the parish had yet to return to the pre-Rita level.
Granger expects many cattle owners will sell part of their herds, but older ones are likely to get out of the business.
"Many cattle owners could be forced to sell their herds,” Granger said. "And prices are down. This might be the straw that broke the camel's back.”
Hay has been donated by South Louisiana farmers, but more hay is needed. Anyone who wants to make a donation should call his office at (337) 898-4335.
Granger said unlike after Hurricane Rita, no out-of-state hay and feed have been donated. The high cost of fuel has prevented hay from being shipped from areas out-of-state.
The biggest priority is getting hay to stranded cattle. About 500 head of cattle in Plaquemines Parish remain stranded, and more than 3,000 are surrounded by floodwaters in Cameron Parish. National Guard helicopters and boats have been used to bring hay, feed and fresh water to those animals.
Cattle owner Al Lee of Esther, Louisiana, says the hay and feed are making a difference for his herd of 150 head.
"It's helping us to hold on to our cattle so we don't have to sell them right away,” Lee says. "Otherwise most of us would have nothing for our cattle to eat.” Lee's pastures were flooded from Hurricane Ike. Like many others, Lee had moved his herd to higher ground before Hurricane Gustav and kept them on the borrowed pasture when Ike developed. He says the grass is thin on his friend's pasture, and other producers are facing the same dilemma. Lee says much of his fencing was uprooted by Ike's surge.