|IN THIS ISSUE:
NO WATER-NO SURPRISE
2000 QUALITY LOSS PROGRAM
TEXAS PRODUCE CONVENTION
EARLY ESTIMATES IN FLORIDA
NO WATER-NO SURPRISE-
Mexican consulate officials in the Valley released a statement earlier this week that Mexico could not meet its water treaty obligations because of continuing drought conditions. At about the same time, IBWC officials in El Paso reported that storage levels on the treaty-designated rivers increased by 263,480 acre feet during the last seven weeks-and that more than 100,000 acre feet were released for irrigation during the same seven weeks ending August 27. If math isn't your strong suit, that is more than 363,000 acre feet of inflows in the last seven weeks-not bad for a drought.
The water issue is on the agenda for cabinet level discussions when Presidente Fox and President Bush meet next week in Washington-which begs the question of why this statement was announced at this time. Next thing you know, Mexico will be asking us to loan them water for their cities along the lower Rio Bravo.
To recap the situation, Mexico has transferred ownership of some 342,711 acre feet of water between last October 2 and the end of July. For the most part, that water was mostly comprised of 50-50 waters (which origin cannot be determined), with some transfer of water that was already present in the reservoirs (water that should have gone to farmers and municipalities in northern Tamaulipas). A small quantity of water was being released (really, released) from Carranzas Dam, but the story goes that locals stormed the facility, seized control and closed the dam, ending that.
Basically, then, if you consider only the current water year (October
2, 2000, to October 1, 2001), Mexico has nearly fulfilled its obligation
of 350,000 acre feet for the year-and the overall 1.4 million acre-feet
debt that has accrued since October 2, 1992, is virtually unchanged.
In case you don't know, October 2, 1992, is the last date on which
the Falcon/Amistad reservoirs were at conservation level, so that is
the current "floating" date under the 1944 treaty.
Incidentally, if you read the newspaper accounts, quotes attributed to Wayne Halbert, Harlingen Irrigation District Manager, are easily misinterpreted-"Mexico has never met its treaty obligations and released water." Change the "and" to "with" and you'll better understand what Wayne was saying, i.e. that Mexico's previous obligations were satisfied only from uncaptured runoff, never by physically releasing water from impoundments.
So, what next? I expect to see just enough additional water to boost the 342,711 acre feet presently on record to the 350,000 acre feet required by treaty. After all, there are still the August and September accountings to be done by IBWC-which are conducted on the last Saturday of the month. Thus, water officials in Mexico can say that they met their obligation for the current year, but were unable to provide any water towards the debt.
Another thing, don't forget that some officials in Mexico do not believe there is a debt, because of ambiguous wording in the treaty about drought. Because the second five-year cycle is supposed to end October 3, 2002, there are approximately 1,750,000 acre feet due from Mexico between now and then-as we see it.
Folks, this whole deal boils down to rain-tons and tons of it, followed by more tons and tons. There simply has to be so much runoff as to overflow all nine (or ever how many there are) dams in Mexico and/or completely fill the two on the Rio Grande-thereby erasing the debt. Yes, Valley agriculture is hurting, but our counterparts across the river have been hurt even more, since the water for their crops and stock has been totally cut off for several years.
Irrespective of challenges of undercounts, the 2000 Census Data show some interesting statistics about our state and peoples. Aside from the fact that 20,851,820 is the currently official headcount in Texas, did you know that the ladies outnumber the men by only 146,000 (50.4 percent versus 49.6 percent)? Or that our median age is 32.3 years?
There are 2,072,532 Texans aged 65 or older, which is just 9.9 percent of our total population. Of those, the ladies outnumber the men by some 348,170. Conversely, there are 6,546,236 Texans from newborn to 19 years-a whopping 31.3 percent of the total population. If that group is broken down into 5-year brackets, the four brackets are about equal at 1.62 to 1.65 million each.
There are 7,393,354 households in the state-40.9 percent of those (3,027,570) have children under 18, while 19.9 percent (1,469,876) include folks older than 65. The average family size is 3.28 people. We include 6,669,666 (32.0 percent) Hispanics and 14,182,154 non-Hispanics-the latter of which is supposedly 10,933,313 white only (52.4 percent), 2,404,566 Blacks (11.5 percent) and 844,275 all others (4.0 percent).
Wouldn't it be something if we could somehow introduce the taste of Texas grapefruit to the roughly five million kids in the K-12 age group?
2000 QUALITY LOSS PROGRAM-
The Farm Service Agency of USDA has a 2000 Quality Loss Program which may help producers whose 2000 crop suffered lower income because of reduced quality that resulted from adverse weather. Citrus in the 2000-01 season did experience fruit quality problems as a result of multiple blooms, so I have written to the Farm Service Agency offices in all three Valley counties explaining how and why the weather adversely affected last year's fruit quality.
As I understand the program, it is designed only for harvested production, the quality of which was reduced as a consequence of unfavorable weather. In other words, fruit that was left on-the-tree is not eligible for consideration, irrespective that the reason it wasn't harvested was because of very poor quality.
I may not have this right, but it appears that payments will be determined as 65 percent of the difference in value as a consequence of poor quality on 65 percent of the affected production. For example, production of 20 tons per acre at $30 reduced value per ton would provide $19.50 per ton on 13 tons for a total of $243.50 per acre. You should, of course, check with your local Farm Service Agency office. The only hitch I see is in how the reduced value will be calculated, as citrus does not have established values as do some other commodities.
TEXAS PRODUCE CONVENTION-
Attendance by citrus growers was not so great as I had expected-considering the quality of this event-but I certainly understand that some growers are up against the wall in terms of costs and returns for last year's crop. I ingested so much information that I haven't been able to sort it all out yet, but I'll recap a couple of highlights for you.
Marketing and promotion is looking up, especially considering the way Melinda Goodman of TexaSweet is approaching the situation. She has some excellent ideas, supported by research data about our principal customers.
Another key discussion involved the grapefruit-pharmaceutical inter-actions-of which there are 25 known today. Unfortunately, there is inconsistent testing research and a real shortage of good, detailed information-which is why the drug companies, to preclude legal problems, err on the side of caution. Ignoring the legal ramifications, I believe that consumers should be cautious in such matters until better research provides consistent answers.
It is an issue that will not go away until there is sufficient research to determine the compound(s) involved, thresholds and dosages along with more clinical trials, et cetera. For current information, powernetdesign.com/grapefruit/ is a website devoted to the situation.
As a sidelight, some companies are trying to identify and extract suspect compounds from grapefruit in order to use them as co-factors for the medication (presumably, to reduce the required dosage of the medication). There is already one patent in this area-others are sure to follow.
Finally, it was pointed out that the USDA purchased approximately $50 million worth of Texas produce for use in public school lunch programs last year-and that USDA expects to buy about $200 million of Texas produce this year. And on another note, the WIC (that's Women, Infants and Children) program is supposed to include vouchers to buy fresh produce.
The most recent report I have seen is that California Valencias have been running about half a million cartons per week, which is probably insufficient to clear out the crop before navels begin-unless the latter season starts late. However, volume should pick up substantially as the school year starts around the country.
Why is this important for Texas? Quite simply, our industry benefits when California's Valencia crop finishes before its navel crop begins-the so-called market window. We'll just have to wait and see if such opportunity arises this season.
EARLY ESTIMATES IN FLORIDA-
Analysts with the Dreyfus group are pegging the coming Florida orange crop at about 241 million boxes, while Elizabeth Steger's estimate is at 243 million boxes. The USDA estimate won't be available until October. For the record, last season's Florida orange crop was pegged at 240 million by USDA and 247 million by Steger-but finished at 223 million boxes because of small size and the lingering drought that plagued Florida growers much of last season.
Rains in the last week of August helped to lower temperatures and provided variable relief in irrigation demand, depending on how much rain fell on a particular grove. Apparently, substantial rains fell in only a few areas, with amounts decreasing away from the coast. Still, most of us are appreciative of even the little rain we got.
The 2001-02 season will commence soon after Labor Day with some of the earliest-maturing of the early oranges leading off. Movement in September won't be substantial, but it will gain momentum through the month as other earlies, navels and some grapefruit achieve established maturity standards.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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