East Texas farmers giving up on sweet potatoes

January 16, 2011 11:51:11 AM PST
Many East Texas farmers are giving up on sweet potatoes, saying it's become hard to find properties that are big enough and they must fend off wild hogs and weevils that can devastate their crop.

Texas used to be one of nation's top growers of sweet potatoes. The Texas Department of Agriculture says it ranked No. 3 in 1970 with 13,500 acres.

This year, it was No. 8 with only 1,300 acres.

Tony Phillips of Grand Saline tells the Houston Chronicle there were 70 or 80 growers when he joined his father's and uncle's sweet potato business in 1978. Now, he thinks there's about 15.

And, Phillips isn't earning a living growing sweet potatoes. He farms during the day and works at night at the Morton Salt Mine.