Texas dairies persevere through Winter Storm Uri
to continue feeding Texans
By Darren Turley, executive director
Friday afternoon before the Winter Storm Uri system arrived, my phone started ringing. Dairy processors were calling to ask if Texas Association of Dairymen could help them prevent a possible shutdown of natural gas supply primarily at our dairy processing plants across the state.
After calls with Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Railroad Commission and dairy cooperatives, it was obvious that our milk plants would have to stop operation during the storm as gas supply was redirected from industrial customers to residential needs and power generation.
The storm was devastating to so many Texans, but it was also very damaging to the state’s dairy industry. All across the state, dairy farmers and processors were impacted. This should not be a surprise when you consider that even Texas’ coastline was covered with snow during this storm. This storm may be historic in that all of Texas was hit so heavily.
A combination of rolling power outages, no gas supply, frozen pipes and treacherous road conditions affected delivery and closed our dairy processing plants. Natural gas is a critical component at our dairy processing plants, where it is used mostly for pasteurization and drying. The plants not operating then temporarily impacted the supply chain of milk and dairy products sent to retailers.
As this article is published, we are still tallying the losses on both plants and dairy farms. The storm was a staggering blow to the dairy industry but, just like every other day, the cows had to be milked.
Thankfully, while milk production was affected, dairy farmers did not suffer significant losses of their livestock, as they did several years ago during Winter Storm Goliath. Dairy farmers continued to take care of their animals throughout the storm. That dairy farmers were prepared for this storm and that their animals survived is a true testament to how hard farmers work to take care of their animals.
Some of our brethren in the Texas agriculture industry were not as fortunate. The poultry industry lost several chicken houses and thousands of birds, the South Texas citrus industry was decimated, ranchers lost many animals, and exotic wildlife farms were devastated.
At the March 11 meeting of the Texas House Agriculture Committee, committee members heard testimony about how Winter Storm Uri impacted various agriculture groups. The Texas Association of Dairymen testified and told committee members how the state’s dairy industry fared, and how hard work by our dairy farmers has now elevated Texas to become our nation’s fourth largest dairy producing state.
The Texas dairy industry is tough and resilient – it’ll take more than a historic winter storm to get us down.