Texas’ only sugar mill shuts down after 50 years due to water shortage

Texas Farm Bureau said the Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers mill no longer had adequate water to sustain operations

SANTA ROSA, Texas – The only operating sugar mill in Texas has shut down after over 50 years in business.

The Texas Farm Bureau said the Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers mill no longer had adequate water to sustain operations, an issue the bureau blames on ongoing water issues with Mexico under the 1944 Water Treaty.

This closure highlights tensions over shared water rights and protections for rural economies reliant on agriculture.

Policymakers face mounting pressure to address the valley’s urgent water crisis as crops, jobs, and a way of life for many families hang in the balance.

Farmer and bureau board member Brian Jones explains that Mexico has built eight new dams since the treaty was signed, reducing water inflows to the United States.

“Just dealing with the sugar mill alone. It’s, up to they had 250, full-time employees. Those jobs are now gone,” Jones said. “They had another 500 seasonal employees. Those jobs are now gone.”

Jones added that it also removes an estimated $100 million in direct economic contribution, with an estimated $300 million total impact on the Rio Grande Valley.

“The sugar industry is lost,” he said. “The sugar industry will never come back to Texas or South Texas.”

Jones worries the lack of water could soon impact the valley’s citrus and vegetable crops, which have already seen decreases in acreage.

He fears a spiraling effect on the agricultural economy with the sugar industry permanently lost.

“A lot of those crops are being impacted,” Jones said. “They’re not completely shut down, but a lot of the acreage has decreased. The citrus is another huge crop that’s grown in the Rio Grande Valley. And they’re they’re probably the next industry that’s teetering right now.”

The International Boundary and Water Commission oversees water rights with Mexico but has not yet responded to requests for comment on the situation.

About the Author

Max Massey is the GMSA weekend anchor and a general assignments reporter. Max has been live at some of the biggest national stories out of Texas in recent years, including the Sutherland Springs shooting, Hurricane Harvey and the manhunt for the Austin bomber. Outside of work, Max follows politics and sports, especially Penn State, his alma mater.

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