South Central Drought Costing Billions of Dollars

The drought costs in the parched south-central states continues to rise. Minuscule amounts of rain combined with record hot summer temperatures has resulted in billions of dollars in agricultural losses. Although some rain has been falling in the region over the last several days, it won’t be nearly enough to put much of a dent in the current drought.

Maps: Current radar

Early estimates of losses in the three states of Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma combined are more than 8 billion dollars and this figure is likely to rise. Below is a closer look at each state showing the preliminary estimates of crop and livestock losses.

See: NOAA report on record-breaking summer heat

Texas – $5.2 billion
Texas drought monitor as of Sept. 13. Darkest red shading is exceptional drought, the highest category. Image courtesy: NDMC/USDA/NOAA

According to an Associated Press report on September 8, 2011, preliminary estimates of crop and livestock losses are at 5.2 billion dollars and rising. The latest drought monitor, pictured above, shows an astounding 88 percent of the state in exceptional drought (darkest red shading), the worst category. For perspective, this area would more than cover the Northeast United States from Virginia and Maryland northward to Maine.

Cotton farmers in the Lubbock area have abandoned their fields due to a lack of rainfall. Ranchers have had to cull there herds or pay for higher feeding costs, including relocation of cattle to other states for grazing.

Kansas – $1.7 billion

The northern periphery of the worst drought conditions in the south-central states is Kansas. Officials with the Kansas Department of Agriculture told the Associated Press that the state’s prolonged drought is costing an estimated 1.7 billion dollars in major crop losses. The agency said Wednesday it based the estimates on a comparison of current production forecasts and average historic production.

Near two-thirds of the state are in moderate to exceptional drought as of September 13. The worst drought conditions are in south-central and southwest Kansas.

Oklahoma – $1.6 billion

In between Texas and Kansas lies Oklahoma, where preliminary estimates by Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources put agricultural losses at 1.6 billion dollars in the state. This figure includes both losses to crops and livestock.

“These estimates most likely represent a lower end of the overall impact, as we have not yet accounted for off-farm impacts to farm suppliers as producers try to minimize costs, or reduced recreational and residential use because of lower lake levels, water-use restrictions and the like,” said Dave Shideler, OSU Cooperative Extension agricultural economist.

As of September 13, almost 93 percent of the Sooner State was in extreme to exceptional drought. These are the two highest categories on the U.S. Drought Monitor report.

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