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Rain, Bugs, Tariffs ... Texas' Pecan Growers Had a Tough Year


It seems 2018 was a rough year for pecan growers in Texas. Between the rain, the bugs, and the politics, fortune did not smile on the state tree of Texas, nor the people who harvest from it.

Weather: Texas did not get an unusual amount of rainfall over the course of the year. According to data from Texas A&M, the state got a little more than 48 inches of rain on the year, which is not abnormal.

What helped quash pecan harvesting, though,  was that half that rainfall occurred in the autumn. Texas saw roughly two feet of rain from September through November, which is when pecan trees fruit for harvest. And all that rain helped was away what up until then looked to be a bumber crop.

AgriLife Extension horticulturist Larry Stein told the Abilene Reporter News in November that heavy rains in Central Texas left pecans soaking and rotting on the ground and sitting around as forage for deer and squirrels before they could be harvested.

Insects: Last week, the Texas Farm Bureau reported that growers in the Trans-Pecos regionbattled the pecan nut casebearer, a late-season insect with a hefty appetite for pecans that has cost growers an as-yet-undetermined amount of money.

Politics: The Trump administration’s trade war with China has been a continuing worry for Texas farmers and growers. For the state's pecan growers, tariffs wavered between 7 and 47 percent this year, according to Blair Krebs, the executive director of the Texas Pecan Growers Association, who spoke with the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network.

Coupled with the least international demand for Texas pecans since the 1970s and the rise of the crop from groves in other regions – namely Mexico and South Africa – Texas growers have a lot of competition at exactly the time the value of pecans on the tree is down.

One upside, the rain-soaked autumn has actually put trees on good footing for 2019, according to Larry Stein. Pecan growers had to contend with a soggy late 2016 that hurt them – but followed up with an $85 million harvest in 2017.