In January, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will decide whether to accept the Lower Colorado River Authority’s (LCRA) proposal of raising the trigger level before water is released to downstream rice farmers.
Three consecutive years of severe drought have affected water levels in Lakes Travis and Austin. According to the Southwest Farm Press, LCRA raised the trigger point from lake levels of 850,000 acre-feet upward to 1.1 million acre-feet capacity. And rice producers would only receive 60 percent of water if reservoirs reach full capacity.
Ron Getson, who is with an organization—Colorado Water Issues Committee—formed to protect senior water rights of farmers downriver from Austin, said the TCEQ vote in January likely won’t favor agriculture.
Small border towns in Texas are feeling the economic impact of the federal government’s decision to ban U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors from entering Mexico at five Texas border crossings to inspect U.S.-bound cattle.
In October, officials said the ban, which was implemented after Texas politicians raised concerns about the increased border violence, will continue indefinitely, according to the Southern Livestock Standard.
“Until the Mexican government can control the violence and guarantee the safety of our federal employees, I have to agree that we should not send them in harm’s way across the border," Texas Agriculture Commission Todd Staples said.
But the ban has had a significant impact on small Texas border towns, such as Presidio. On the Texas side of the Rio Grande, a makeshift inspection pen was built. But the pen can only handle 700 head of cattle per week, far less than the 2,500 per day prior to the USDA’s ban. So, Mexican producers are transporting their cattle to a USDA inspection site across the border in New Mexico.
In an attempt to convince federal officials that cross-border inspections are safe, cattle producers from both Texas and Mexico are meeting to draft their own version of a security plan.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said an agreement on the farm bill was close and should be announced directly after Jan. 1.
“We will announce it the first week of January. We’ve got to get final scores in,” said Stabenow. “We have a couple of things we’re negotiating on now, but we’re close.”
The main issue negotiators are debating is nutrition cuts. The Senate bill calls for $4 billion in food stamp cuts compared to the House’s $39 billion. According to The Hill, sources indicate the final number will be closer to the Senate bill and could include pilot programs to help food stamp recipients stop using the assistance.
The shape of farm subsidies is still yet to be determined. The House proposal offers a choice of more generous price-based protection, while the Senate proposal concentrates on revenue margin insurance.