RGV Sugar Growers Expect to Take Months to Harvest Crop
SANTA ROSA – Fire crews all over the Rio Grande Valley have been working overtime to put out a wildfire in Brooks County. However, not all the smoke people can see is necessarily a bad thing.
According to the Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers, the reason they burn the sugarcane is for easy access through the fields.
They rid the crop of all the leaves so they can work quickly and efficiently.
“We do about 200 to 300 acres a day,” Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers Inc. Environmental and Safety Director Dale Kerstetter said. They’re the only sugarcane mill in the entire state of Texas.
“We have about 4,000 acres that we’re gonna harvest this season, so it’ll take about five to five and a half months to get all of that sugarcane out,” he said.
They’re open and running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, that doesn’t mean they’re constantly burning.
“We have a burn order every year from TCEQ that allows us to do this,” he said. “The daylight hours, the wind, and they’re the ones who take care of it. They issue a burn order is what they do.”
Kerstetter said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is responsible for regulating when they can burn.
TCEQ spokesperson Andrew Keese issued the following statement:
“The Texas Health and Safety Code authorize them to regulate outdoor burning through the enforcement of the outdoor burning rule.”
“You always take precautions. We have what we call fire crews out there. There are 1,500-gallon water wagons out there with trained people and they wet the outside perimeter of the adjacent field,” Kerstetter said.
They contact the local fire departments to notify them they will be in the area burning.
Kerstetter said before they burn, they drive around the perimeter issuing a warning. He said if they find someone in the crops they have to postpone their burn for 24 hours.
Kerstetter expects to finish up burning the sugarcane in the next two months, just before the strong winds arrive.