The yearlong drought that hit Texas from 2010 to 2011 may be the costliest in state, and possibly national, history. When totaled up, losses could reach as high as $8 billion.
While hardly a stranger to lack of rain, the recent drought represents the most damaging period of dry weather in the history of the state. According to an economist at Texas A&M University, “the intensity of the drought, reflected in record high temperatures, record low precipitation, unprecedented winds coupled with duration, all came together to devastate production agriculture.”
Some of the hardest hit industries were also some of Texas’ most productive. Livestock and cotton production, representing 15 and 25 percent of national production respectively, suffered a combined loss of nearly $5.5 billion. Cattle ranchers, in particular, were hit hard. With local hay production suffering, some ranchers tried to buy hay from neighboring states, some reaching as far as Montana. Ultimately, the costs of maintaining herds became too great, and many ranchers were forced to sell their livestock, including their heifers, the basis of future ranching.
These enormous losses, in addition to being damaging to Texas farmers, could pose serious consequences for national consumers. The loss in agricultural goods could drive up the price of beef and cotton, complicating a halting economic recovery.
For the moment, many farmers are cautiously optimistic. While much of West Texas, including significant portion of cattle territory, are still dry, Central and East Texas have both received heavy downpours, leading some farmers to hope that the worst may be over.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer