The worst drought in Texas since the 1950’s is racking up a huge bill. One estimate puts the damage this agricultural season at $5.2 billion. An AgriLife Extension Service economist says total livestock losses could exceed $2.1 billion in the nation’s largest cattle producing state. Crop losses, mostly cotton and corn, could exceed $3.1 billion, and the Texas A&M-based service says the figure could rise even higher once the harvest is complete.
Water sources are all but dry, leaving fields that are so parched, experts say it’s actually becoming too dry to rain.
Dr. Travis Miller, Drought Specialist, AgriLife: “It’s not good for ag production on either end of the scale. But certainly you’re more likely to make a crop in wet conditions than drought. Essentially, the reason why we’re not seeing rain this summer, we’re out of El Nino, in a neutral position, with above or below average chances or equal chances of normal rainfall. But if you look at our condition now, much of our summer rainfall, comes from evaporation from the soils, there’s no moisture in our soils, we’re at dry conditions and likely to stay dry until we get significant change in our climate pattern or we get moisture.”
Since 1998, drought has cost the Lone Star State $13.1 in agriculture losses. And even though pastures are way over-grazed, ranchers are struggling to hold on to their herds amidst soaring beef prices.
Pastures are over-grazed as ranchers hold on to herds as the value of beef continues to climb.
Texas also is the nation’s top cotton-producing state, but 60 percent of the crop currently is in poor to very poor condition, and arid conditions in Texas and Oklahoma are weighing heavily on national figures.
Neither state has any cotton in excellent condition and only two percent of the Oklahoma crop is even rated good.
The Corn Belt also has received less rainfall than normal during key corn development stages. In the 18 major corn producing states, 60 percent of the crop is in good to excellent condition. That’s about the same as last week, but the figure lags 9 percent behind last year.
Soybeans appear to have been “feeling the heat” as well. 61 percent of the U.S. crop is listed as good-to-excellent, down 5 percentage points from the 2010 growing season.
And the winter wheat harvest is winding down with more than 90 percent of the crop in the bin. Despite the brisk pace, the work still is about 3 percentage points behind the five-year average.