‘It’s falling apart’: up to 95% of RGV vegetable crops are gone, farmers say

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EDINBURG, Texas (KVEO) — After a week of freezing temperatures, Rio Grande Valley vegetable farmers are assessing the damage.

“It’s down, it’s beat, it’s withered, and it’s falling apart,” said Dante Galeazzi, President and CEO of Texas International Produce Association.

Last weekend, Rio Grande Valley company, Texas Citrus Mutual, reported losing 55% of grapefruit crops because of the arctic blast.

Out of more than 40 vegetable crops grown in the Rio Grande Valley, only three are hopeful to survive, onions, cabbage, and potatoes.

“It’s going to be a tough decision for them to decide. Do they go in and try and salvage a little bit or do they just put it all to plow?,” said Galeazzi.

Farmers said it is too late to replant most crops, so they are looking at a second straight spring, where they are unable to harvest.

Galeazzi explained how the loss of crops will affect the jobs of farmworkers.

“With Texas farmers not having another six to nine weeks left in their season, what do they do with all those farmworkers?,” said Galeazzi. “What do they do with all the people that work at the sheds, that pack, and load trucks? What do they do with all their sales entities, the accounting staff?”

Little Bear Produce in Edinburg grows, packs, and ships produce, normally it would be peak season. Now, they are plowing over damaged crops and said that more than 700 jobs are now in jeopardy.

“Those folks are suffering too through this time because now the work has dried up,” said Bret Erickson, Director of Business Development, Little Bear Produce. “That’s their livelihood, and that’s how they put food on the table, and pay their bills. So, this hurts everybody in the community.”

Erickson said they are replanting what they can.

“Ultimately mother nature is going to dictate whether or not you’ve had a successful season or not, but were resilient and we will most certainly be back stronger,” said Erickson.

The loss does not only economically impact farmers, but the general public too.

“As a consumer, you can expect that your fruit and vegetables are probably going to be a little more expensive over the next six to eight weeks, especially until we have supply from the next growing region,” said Galeazzi.

The Texas International Produce Association said they are hoping for some state or federal aid to help with the losses.

Farmers are still assessing the total economic damage to vegetable crops because of the recent winter storms.

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