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Cash, Money, Hose? Lack of Water Killing Texas Farm Industry


With Hurricane Irene approaching the East Coast, and the plains and midwest regions well into their annual thunderstorm season, a lack of rain is hardly on most American’s minds. Yet, in Texas, the dearth of rainfall is up there with High School Football as the only topics on anyone’s radar. Texas has been in a drought for almost a year now, and shows little to no sign of letting up soon. The lack of rainfall has combined with weeks of 100 degree plus temperatures to destroy the farming market.
“Lubbock has only received 1.49 inches of rain so far this year. Normal is 12.3 inches,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Tom Kines. “Amarillo received 2.65 inches of rain, and 14.29 inches are normal for them.”
“The drought began for much of the state in September 2010,” said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and a member of the Governor’s Drought Preparedness Council.
“Much of the Gulf Coast, Central, West Texas and the High Plains had seen abundant moisture in the summer from Tropical Storm Hermine and other rainfall events. An unusually strong La Nina pattern moved into place in the fall of 2010, which had an impact comparable to turning off the ‘rainfall switch’ for most of Texas and surrounding states,” Miller said.
Despite a history of some dry periods, the lack of rainfall the past 12 months was record-setting for Texas. Miller said October 2010 through July 2011 was the driest 10-month period in recorded Texas weather.
The timing could not have been worse for Texas farmers, as market conditions are in the growers’ favor this season. Commodity prices are up, in part because the drought has weakened supply and in part because of inflation/speculation/market forces.
“This destructive climatic pattern has taken a huge toll on crops and forages, and the timing could not have been worse for Texas producers, as all of the major agricultural commodities are enjoying strong prices,” Miller said.
Overall, Texas is looking at losses from the drought around $5.2 billion, which would represent a record. The previous record was $4.1 billion in 2006. The losses, which are conservative estimates (some crops haven’t been accounted for yet) break down as follows:

  • Livestock: $2.06 billion
  • Lost hay production value: $750 million
  • Cotton: $1.8 billion
  • Corn: $327 million
  • Wheat: $243 million
  • Sorghum: $63 million

A look at the Texas weather map suggests it might be a while before non-drought conditions crop back up. Lubbock, Texas, for example, is forecast to have sunny weather and temperatures between 95 and 100 degrees for the next two weeks, followed by (perhaps?) one solid weekend of rain. Will it happen? Farmers in Texas certainly hope so.


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