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The USDA lowered the Florida orange estimate some 3 million boxes on February 8-all in the early and mid class. Neither Valencias nor grapefruit changed. Texas' crop forecasts were unchanged.
The yield of FCOJ in Florida was pegged at 1.52 gallons of 42° Brix per box of early-mids, 1.68 gallons per box of Valencias. That's a 10.5 percent greater yield for Valencias.
The Texas early, mid and navel season is finished, with Valencias having only just begun. The high packouts in grapefruit are a mixed blessing in the sense that fruit quality is so good that the harvest will be extended much later than most would like. Reduced PHE's mean that packinghouses harvest far fewer bins of fruit to meet their sales/orders.
In water terms, "release" evokes the image of open gates and water spilling from impoundments, running downstream in response to gravity on its journey to the sea-or to the next impoundment. At the recent water meeting in Weslaco, there were two announcements about the water debt-first, the transfer of 50/50 waters and second, an actual, physical "release" of water from interior impoundments. There was some discussion about which dam would "release" and how far it is from the Rio Grande. Official announcement as to when and how much water would be "released" was expected within days-but there has been no announcement as yet.
What we have gotten so far is the remainder of the 50/50 water that was committed under Minute 234. Remember that Minute 234 provided all of Mexico's share of 50/50 waters until September 30, 2001-but lawsuits filed in Mexico stopped that transfer on July 1, 2001.
Forget for the moment that Mexico's share of the 50/50 water actually belonged to Tamaulipas water-rights holders. Would you care to guess how much 50/50 water accumulated between July 1 and September 30? If you said 184,840 acre feet, then you understand what is happening. Half of that (the US share) was allocated as it accrued, but the 92,420 acre feet that was Mexico's share was unallocated until the lawsuits in Mexico were resolved.
So, the 92,420 acre feet was transferred (not "released") to the US upon lifting of the injunctions. In other words, that provision of Minute 234 has now been satisfied, all of Mexico's share of 50/50 waters until September 30 has been transferred to the U.S. In fact, the only part of Minute 234 that has not occurred is actual "releases" from certain dams on the named tributaries to meet the targeted 600,000 acre feet by September 30 of last year.
Thus, the overall commitment of 600,000 acre feet is still somewhat short. Could it be that Mexico has not "released" water because of the lawsuits? Remember, under normal circumstances, any water flowing into the Rio Grande from the named tributaries is apportioned two-thirds to Mexico (mostly Tamaulipas) and one-third to Texas. Thus, "releases" would have to be three times the amount intended for Texas. Given the sacrifice of Tamaulipas water-rights last year, is it conceivable that Mexico planned to "release" only enough water to satisfy the 600,000 acre-feet provision of Minute 234, with no apportionment for Tamaulipas? Or was this just another roll of the dice that enough rainfall would occur below their impoundments to either make up the balance of the 600,000 acre feet or completely cancel the obligation by filling the reservoirs to conservation level?
Back to the 92,420 acre feet-with well over half a million acres of water rights in the Valley, that's barely two inches per acre. As the title of this piece reflects, that is only a few drops.
OTHER WATER NEWS-
According to news reports of March 1, the IBWC announced the transfer to the U.S. of another 8,000 acre feet of water already in storage in the two reservoirs. Too, IBWC has requested another water release (there's that word again!) From Mexico which proposal has been forwarded to Mexico City. In addition, IBWC and the State Department prepared a paper detailing water treaty negotiation points for President Bush's discussions with Presidente Fox later this month in Monterrey.
Congressman Ortiz is calling for taxes on Mexican produce entering the U.S. to help offset the tremendous economic losses to Valley Agriculture and as an impetus for greater action by the U.S. State Department and the government of Mexico. Congressman Hinojosa and Senator Hutchinson are both on record as opposing that particular approach.
At the state level, Attorney General Cronyn is forming a task force to ascertain what role and action state government can pursue to help alleviate the situation. TNRCC has submitted a report to Governor Perry, which includes estimates of economic losses and job losses that Texas Cooperative Extension personnel helped to develop. It is expected that this report will also be forwarded to USDA, Congress and the State Department.
Finally, everyone involved assures us that the water issue is definitely on the agenda for discussion by President Bush and Presidente Fox at the UN Conference in Monterrey. The questions remain, however; where will the owed water come from, when will it come and how much?
Valley irrigation district managers have pressed this issue for several years, and warned officials some years ago that action should be implemented before Mexico found itself in the position of being unable to meet her obligations. Virtually no action was undertaken by the Clinton administration.
Some would argue that the Bush administration has not done a whole lot either, but Minute 234 was developed in President Bush's first quarter in office. Had the lawsuits not occurred, it is entirely likely that the agreed-upon 600,000 acre feet of water would have been provided-thereby satisfying the 350,000 acre feet annual volume (for the year ending October 1, 2001) with 250,000 acre feet applied towards the overdue debt.
Mexico's carryover debt for the five-year cycle that ended October
1, 1997, was over 1.0 million acre feet. The present total of 1.4 million
acre feet means that about one-year's worth of water has not been provided
since October, 1997. Add to that the current year's volume due, and the
total becomes 1.75 million acre feet
At present, the volume of water reportedly in impoundment along the six named tributaries in northern Mexico is just over 1.0 million acre feet. In other words, the necessary water just isn't there. Estimates that agricultural producers in Chichuhua have been using about 13 acre feet of water per acre irrigated suggest why the water isn?t there. Since no crop needs that much water, even in the Chihuahuan Desert, waste and inefficiency must be rampant.
For many Valley producers, the 2002 season is already over. The lack of winter rains means that existing soil moisture is insufficient to plant even dryland crops-and there was little or no water available for prewatering.
Without sustained rainfall locally and along the Rio Grande, Pecos and Devils Rivers, many Valley irrigation districts will run out of agricultural water much earlier than they did in 1998-some possibly as early as May. Most will probably keep some water in reserve to provide "push water" for municipal supplies.
Despite the bleakness of the water situation, Valley citrus growers are preparing for the 2002-03 season with cautious optimism. Grove work has been increasing steadily, with weed control, hedging, irrigation and fertilization operations being completed before or during the coming flush.
Navels and early oranges have started to flush-grapefruit will soon follow. The predicted critical temperatures early Wednesday morning failed to materialize because cloud cover hung in over the Valley throughout the night. Not so a few miles to the north where the clouds disappeared and record low temperatures were recorded. Still winter just won't give up another frigid Arctic blast is poised to drop temperatures close the danger zone over the weekend.
Some drizzle has occurred, but nothing significant-nor is any significant rainfall predicted anytime soon. Hopefully, citrus growers have secured sufficient water resources to carry the trees through the bloom and fruit set period that ends in late May. After that, we'll just have to hope for enough rain to size the crop over the summer and fall.
Finally, growers should give serious thought to the pest management program for the coming season. Texas Cooperative Extension, through the office of Dr. Juan Anciso in the Hidalgo County Extension office in Edinburg, in cooperation with the Texas Pest Management Association, provides a biweekly orchard scouting and reporting service from April through October. The cost is $22.50-25.00 per acre enrolled in the program. Contact Dr. Anciso early this month to discuss the program and what it can provide for you.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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