Texas Farmers Hope for Rain; Only July 4 Celebrations Cloud Up

After the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday declared all of Texas a natural disaster area, which enables farmers and ranchers to qualify for emergency loans at lower interest rates, low expectations about its benefits are being reported.

Local organic farmer in Grayson County, Foster Fogarty, said the drought was seriously hurting his business, reported.

“We’ve lost quite a few crops. Most of our squash crop this year was wiped out by beetles and we weren’t able to get a second crop in because there wasn’t enough moisture in the soil,” Fogarty said.

Aaron Looney, another farmer, said the extreme heat and lack of rain was killing his crops and forcing him to consider selling some of his cattle, but he would not be taking out any loans, because he felt it would not help.

Fogarty spelled out the reason: “I think our agriculture system totally works backwards you can only get the loan if you have good enough credit and enough assets to get the loan; it's worse than trying to get a home loan.”

The farmers don’t seem to think taking on more debt will help. They look up to the skies.

“Uh we just need rain, there's just not much else that can be done about it,” Fogarty said.

“Rain, and quickly, quickly,” Looney said.

Farmers and ranchers in Lubbock County do not think much different.

Mike Swain, who farms south of Brownfield, told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that loans weren’t what he was looking for.

"I will be real honest, I don't need a loan – I need rain," Swain said.

Similarly, Scott Harmon, who farms south of Idalou, was not planning to apply for an emergency loan. He said he doubted if other farmers would want to take out any more money.

With more than 3 million acres burned, this has been one of the worst fire seasons in Texas history.

Meanwhile, expectations are also low with regard to the upcoming Independence Day celebrations.

Dazzling aerial-light displays and glittering patterns in the sky will be missing for most people this July 4 in Texas, where severe drought and resulting burn bans have led to widespread restrictions on use of firecrackers.

As CNN has noted, counties are not only imposing restrictions on small-bore pyrotechnics like firecrackers and bottle rockets, but cities like San Antonio, Austin, Amarillo and Lubbock have canceled municipal fireworks displays because of the tinderbox conditions.

With July 4 fast approaching, the counties are increasingly turning in local disaster declarations besides the state-wide burn bans.

Burn bans prohibit all outdoor fires, but, in the current scenario, counties have resorted to disaster declarations to specifically prohibit the sale and use of fireworks.

Local disaster declarations generally last for 60 hours, but with a long, hot summer remaining, counties are looking to keep restrictions in place even longer. Recent disaster declarations have typically been accompanied by a letter to Gov. Rick Perry requesting an extension, often through July 5, The Texas Tribune reported.

Several large urban counties, from Travis to Harris to El Paso, have issued local disaster declarations, keeping the possibility of July 4 fireworks sales at bay.

Hays County issued its own disaster declaration June 15, banning the sale of all fireworks to its residents, but still intending to hold a public fireworks display. But when cities like Austin and San Antonio canceled their public fireworks, Hays was forced to follow suit, for fear of being overrun with tourists from those two cities. Hardin County declared a local state of disaster June 20.

However, the drought, the burn ban, or the local disaster declarations have not quite scorched the will of avid celebrants. Here’s an example.

Amid “rumors” that Jonhson City’s Spangle-Dangle has been canceled, Blanco County News, a local Texas newspaper, reported a spirited attempt to cheer up the residents.

“Do we need fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July?” asks the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce. “Of course not!”

The chamber is asking everyone to celebrate our nation’s birthday with a parade, the newspaper reported.

“Anyone is invited to participate in the parade with a float, a trailer, truck, car, ATV, motorcycle, bicycle, tricycle, horse, mule, pets, goats, families, friends, groups, teams, organizations, churches, businesses,” the chamber says. “Just embellish your entry with Patriotic Pride and come on out! No entry forms needed. Just be on time.”

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