Texas Drought Cost Rises

The 2000 drought has wrought $1.1 billion in damage on state agriculture, hitting West Texas cotton especially hard, the Agricultural Extension Service reported.

Texas A&M economists estimate that cotton losses alone have reached $485 million as fields, particularly those without irrigation systems, withered under the summer’s record spell of heat and lack of rain.

Total agricultural losses were estimated at $820 million just last week, but officials increased the total after factoring in damage to fall crops and expenses incurred by ranchers.

About $200 million of the increase resulted from cotton losses, crop specialist Carl Anderson said.

Drought expert Travis Miller warned Texans that rains this week didn’t come close to ending the statewide drought.

Foot of Rain Needed

“We’ve got a ways to go as far as filling soil [moisture] profiles,” Miller said. According to government experts, the central part of the state needs as much as a foot of rain to emerge from the drought.

In addition to cotton losses, the drought has inflicted an estimated $153 million damage on wheat crops, $124 million damage on forage crops and $105 million in added feeding and watering costs for ranchers.

Drought in 1996 and 1998 led to about $2 billion in losses for each of those years, according to Texas A&M.