Texas Drought Could Hurt State's Rice Farms

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The Lower Colorado River Authority may cut off the water flow to a river that hundreds of South Texas farmers use as their primary source of water.

As many as 250 rice farms in the state's three biggest rice-producing counties - Matagorda, Wharton and Colorado -- would be effected by the emergency measure on account of the current drought.

Officials say the water would be saved and used for drinking and other utilities. The proposal by the river authority board could go to a vote Wednesday.

If passed, it would be implemented in 2012, only if water levels of manmade reservoirs along the massive Texas river fall below a certain level on Jan. 1.

Some of the South Texas farmers like Barbara Corporon wonder how they would keep their farms operating without water.

"With the amount of money that it takes for us to farm, one bad year is all you can stand and then you're bankrupt," said Corporon, 46. "We're too old for anybody to hire us. This is what we've done all our life. He's too young to retire, but he's too old for anything else. We're in a pickle."

David Schroeder, executive director of the Wharton County Economic Development Corporation, said a move to cut off water would be catastrophic to the region's economy.

"Some people may think that it's just one or two and farmers," Schroeder said. "But it's farmers, implement companies, all the green and downstream production companies that are affected."

"Jobs are going to be lost, second crops aren't going to be able to be done. Farms may shut down and prices may go up. This is how important it is for our community to have water," he explained.

Texas produces about 170,000 acres of rice each year, around 5 percent of the nation's total.

The state is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts on record. Since last October, the Lone Star State has seen the driest 11-month period since 1895.

Extremely high temperatures have also played a role in the drought. This summer has been the hottest in the nation's history.

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