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El Paso cotton and pecan farmers struggle to salvage decent harvest amidst pandemic

EL PASO, Texas -- It has been a difficult year for El Paso's farmers, including those who grow cotton and pecans, the region's two largest agricultural exports.

Despite everything that was thrown at El Paso’s cotton production industry, it has managed a good year with solid product output. But along the way, farmers and facility administrators have had to drastically change the way they do business to keep their employees safe.

“We have been working on compliance with face mask and hand sanitizers and barriers where possible," said Valley Gin Co. General Manager Gil Jones. "That is especially true in our shipping area so we are isolating from vendors and truckers.”

However, the virus still found a way to strike at Jones and his cotton production company.

“There have been a number of my employees who have experienced numerous deaths in their families which is very sad and regrettable," Jones said.

Despite all that, El Paso’s cotton industry fought through to salvage a decent season.

“The good news is that the market is good and any delays will be managed and the growers will be paid," Jones said.

However, the situation seems more dire for the pecan industry, where many farmers are dealing with labor shortages.

“The farmers have been relying on each other to lend farm workers and borrow workers around the properties,” said Jesus "Chuy" Reyes of El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1.

At a time when the value of pecans per bushel has already dropped sharply on national markets, some local pecan farmers have had to slow down or stop work on their fields entirely due to Covid infections.

This is happening as farmers across the nation continue to struggle greatly.

A new study coordinated by Texas A&M predicts that the virus will have an overall economic impact of $2.5 trillion lost in goods and services nationwide.

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Michael Gordon

Michael Gordon is a former ABC-7 reporter who co-anchored Good Morning El Paso weekends.


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