Producers say 2012 was dry, but not like 2011

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Flowers flanked the Victoria County Master Gardener booth Thursday at the South Texas Farm and Ranch Show as Myra Sue Schulze visited with passersby.

The foliage added a bright touch to the booth that Schulze said she found difficult to bring to her own garden this year.

"It's been hard," she said. "You try to overwater, fertilize and do what you need to do, but it's so dry. It's a lose/lose situation."

Schulze wasn't alone in her dry weather worries.

Although 2012 fared better than previous years for area agriculture, producers said conditions weren't where they should be yet.

Geary Stutts, of ABI Irrigation, said his business relies heavily on weather conditions.

This year has been fair but not great, for instance, while 2011 started out strong and then "went into the tank."

"When it's dry, our business picks up," he said. "If it's too dry, though, it goes back down. Because with no water, you can't irrigate. We see both sides of the spectrum."

Bart Goebel and RD Dalton operated the booth for Westway Feed Products and said they found themselves facing a decrease in the number of cattle they fed.

"It's better than it was a year ago, but there is a decrease," Goebel said. "It's hard on us."

He said he remained skeptically optimistic, however. The economy has seen some improvement, he said, and the Crossroads is better off than other areas because of Eagle Ford Shale drilling.

Still, Dalton noted, with cattle prices up, it's become more difficult for ranchers to buy back in.

Planning makes a big difference in weathering a drought, said George Hood and Richard Marbach, two Victoria County ranchers.

What rain the area did get helped, Marbach said, explaining it allowed him to leave his grass high and avoid resorting to feeding his cattle hay. Being smart when it comes to culling a herd also helped, Hood said.

"Those who started out the drought by getting rid of the old ones first came out with the cream of the crop," he said. "You've got to have a plan."