‘We should have been a priority’: Consumers may feel the pinch at checkout after Texas farmers hit hard by winter storm

‘If we can get through this, we can get through anything’

ST. HEDWIG, Texas – Farmers across Texas were hit hard by the recent winter storm and rotating blackouts that knocked out power in many communities. Consumers can expect to feel the effects at the grocery store, with empty shelves and higher prices for some products.

Green Bexar Farm in St. Hedwig, which focuses on organic foods and specializes in tomatoes, opened its doors three years ago.

Cody Scott and his wife made it through the pandemic by pivoting their strategy. They managed to survive after KSAT interviewed them in 2020 as the pandemic began affecting them.

But the Scotts could not make it through the 2021 winter storm that left much of Texas without power.

“We borrowed extra heaters from the community. I was going in the middle of the night, fueling up diesel and keeping the heaters going, and the first night, they started going in and out. I managed to save most of our stuff,” Scott said. “The next night, the power went out, and we lost everything.”

Out of the 2,800 plants in his two tomato greenhouses, Scott and his wife managed to move the winter plants that were alive and not on the ground into the house. The loss of his main crop is going to hurt since he lost 90% of his income.

“We have to start all over, and even the fastest crops won’t be ready for another two months,” Scott said. “We have zero income for the next two months, and we lost about a year’s worth of income.”

Without crop insurance, Scott will count on donations and support from customers through his Community Supported Agriculture box. 

Scott says his farm could have been saved.

“We should have been a priority as far as keeping the electricity on,” he said. “We feed the community, thousands of people, and we’re a small farm, and we still feed thousands of people.”

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller agrees. He says the state will lose more than a billion dollars, at least in crops and food.

Miller said there are $300 million in citrus crops that are gone in the Rio Valley. One hundred percent of the oranges are gone, and 60% of the grapefruits are gone. The other 40% can be saved for juice, but without any plants, those will also be gone. The trees will not have any crops next year.

Grapes and wine trees are also a loss this year, Miller said.

“In a time when our consumers can least afford it, they’re going to pay record prices for their groceries,” Miller said.

He pointed to the milk plants that had no power to process the milk and had to dump it instead. Chicken and egg ranchers were all impacted the same, he said.

Miller said he raised the alarm to the governor to ensure that the farms’ power would be protected, but that alarm fell on deaf ears.

“There’s going to be some dairymen that won’t get through this. They’re going to declare bankruptcy. Even a large number of our citrus farmers will go out of business. They were borderline anyway,” Miller said.

State relief for farmers is not available, and federal funds are slow to trickle in, according to the agriculture commissioner.

With the situation not yet resolved, customers can expect shelves at grocery stores and food banks to be scarce for several weeks.

“Prices are gonna skyrocket,” Miller said.

The Texas Department of Agriculture has the STAR Fund, which is made up of private donations that help farmers during a disaster. Those funds are already going out, and more donations are needed.

Scott said he’s going to pivot to survive. He loves farming, and he’s not ready to give up yet.

“This is tough, but I can’t imagine it can get any tougher than this. If we can get through this, we can get through anything,” Scott said.

About the Authors

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Before starting KSAT in 2017, Lee was a photojournalist at KENS 5, where he won a Lone Star Emmy in 2014 for Best Weather Segment. In 2009 and 2010 Lee garnered first-place awards with the Texas Association of Broadcasters for Best Investigative Series in College Station, as well as winning first place for Staff Photojournalism in 2011 at KBTX.

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