Texas drought losses reach high
Lack of rainfall and record triple-digit temperatures have scorched crops and rangeland throughout parts of Texas causing drought losses to reach $3.6 billion, Texas AgriLife Extension Service economists reported Monday.
By the end of the year, losses could exceed $4.1 billion, the loss estimated in Texas in 2006, if sufficient rainfall isn't received to revive crops and forage, economists said.
Total crop losses this year are estimated at $2.6 billion and livestock, another $974 million since November 2008.
"Extreme or exceptional drought conditions for the second year in a row and prolonged weather with over 100 degree temperatures have devastated agricultural crops and livestock operations, especially in Central and South Texas," said Dr. Carl Anderson, AgriLife Extension economist and professor emeritus. "This area covers about 40 percent of Texas. With the exception of Northeast Texas, the trans Pecos and the Southern Panhandle areas, the entire state is suffering from lack of sufficient rain for more than a year."
Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and a member of the Governor's Texas Drought Preparedness Council, said the drought is not only impacting major agricultural operations, but also water supplies "for more than 30 percent of the State of Texas."
"Most dryland crops in South and Central Texas, the Gulf Coast and the Rio Grande Valley are either zeroed-out or will yield a small fraction of their normal yields," Miller said.
It's the hottest, driest summer on record over a large portion of the state, but especially in the central, south and southwest regions, said Jose Pena, AgriLife Extension economist in Uvalde.
"Rainfall in a large part of South Texas has been less than 4 inches since the start of this year," Pena said.
"Range and pasture conditions are in poor or only fair conditions over more than 85 percent of Texas," Pena said. "The water supply for livestock and wildlife is diminishing, with many stock ponds dry."
The statewide crop condition report by U.S. Department of Agriculture rates one-third of Texas cotton acreage very poor or poor. Dry moisture conditions indicate a large amount of acreage will likely be abandoned, Anderson said, and a small cotton crop is expected because of lost acreage and low yields.
Corn and sorghum were rated even worse with more than 40 percent in the poor category, Anderson said.
"As a result, a large part of the planted cotton and grain acreage will be abandoned, and the rest of dryland production will produce below average yields," said Dr. Mark Welch, AgriLife Extension grains marketing economist. "Many of the dryland cotton, grain sorghum and corn crops in the Coastal Bend and Lower Rio Grande Valley have been abandoned."
Total crop losses estimated for the entire growing season include cotton, corn, grain sorghum, wheat, and miscellaneous crops. Current crop conditions reported by USDA are taken into consideration in estimating lost value, Welch said.
While West Texas cotton is in the early stages of the growing season, abandoned planted acreage and low projected yields indicate a loss of $540 million, Welch said. Compared to 2008, he expects the drought to cut the corn crop about 45 percent, the sorghum crop 69 percent, and wheat crop 62 percent. Grain sorghum losses stand at $258 million and corn, $618 million.
"The combined effects of drought, freeze and lower prices are estimated to have cut Texas wheat value by $506 million in 2009," Welch said.
Meanwhile, the state's livestock operations continue to suffer. Little or no hay has been baled this year or for 2008 in South, Central or East Texas. Much of Texas continues to be short on moisture. The hay loss at mid-year is estimated at $409 million, according to economists. Hay is being shipped into south Texas from northeast Texas and other states.
"Given the critical shortage of forage for grazing and hay, a soaking rain is needed soon to maintain the beef cow herd in Central and South Texas," said Dr. David Anderson, AgriLife Extension livestock marketing economist. "The high cost of buying hay and supplemental feed is resulting in liquidation of some herds."
Counties in extreme and exceptional drought account for 40 percent of Texas' cow herd and 6 percent of the U.S.'s beef cow herd, Anderson said. Ranchers have been forced to cull deeper into herds and to sell calves at lighter weights, earlier than normal.
"From November 2008 until March 2009, the loss was estimated at $569 million," Anderson said. "Additional livestock costs since March 2009 are estimated to have totaled about $300 million. The total now is $869 million. Those include feed costs such as hay and other feed supplements, and do not include reduced future revenues due to losing breeding stock and lost revenue from selling calves earlier. In addition to the beef cattle losses, the estimated loss for goats, sheep, honey and horses totals $105 million."
The drought will stress wildlife resources and reduce the amount and quality of wild animals and birds. Wildlife management programs are critical to maintaining the recreational value of land used for outdoor recreation during the intense drought, according to Anderson.
The early summer drought and high temperatures are damaging all dryland crops such as vegetables, horticulture plants, peaches, pecans and other crops by at least $214 million. Land-based recreation used for camping, hiking, birding, wildlife watching, and hunting is expected to lose some $100 million, according to AgriLife Extension estimates.