Despite some fall showers, most of Texas remains in an exceptional drought, and faced with withered pastures and farmland, the losses already sustained by the state's ranchers and agriculturalists are likely to worsen.
In August, economists with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, a community education network linked with Texas A&M Univeristy, reported agricultural drought losses reached a record high - a whopping $5.2 billion. Of that amount, livestock producers lost $2.06 billion partly due to the purchasing of expensive feed and lost pastures.
Travis Miller, Texas AgriLife Extension Service argonomist, said the unending drought, which began in September 2010, will have lasting affects on Texas agriculture. It will take several years, he said, for overgrazed grasslands to recover and for ranchers to replace their heads of cattle.
We are out of grass and out of water, Miller said, who added the loses already sustained constitute roughly a quarter of Texas's farm gate sales. Another year like the one we've seen would really [put] a hole in our production.
Already, Texas ranchers sold or culled roughly 600,000 heads of cattle, Miller said, and 61 per cent or 4.35 million acres of the state's cotton crops have not been harvested because the crop failed.
Cotton is not the only commodity with reported losses. Hay, corn, wheat and sorghum have all sustained loses.
By all accounts, the drought is not going away. With La Niña weather patterns in place in the Pacific Ocean, farmers and ranchers in the state can expect another dry winter - bad news for farmers when summer crops get planted in February.
Miller said the percentage of cotton crops failing could potentially reach 100 per cent - though some irrigation will probably prevent total crop loses. Would it come to that?
Your guess is as good as mine, Miller said.
John Robinson, a cotton economist with Texas AgriLife, said Texas farmers are likely to plant cotton in 2012 no matter how little moisture is present in the ground. He said the price of cotton is still relatively high, and thus remains a viable commodity. Farmers are likely to plant and hope for rain.
But with crop yields in Texas failing and cattle herds diminishing, agriculturalists will not be the only ones affected, Miller said.
We are walking into uncharted waters, Miller said, who added he is unsure how the current and potential future loses to Texas' two largest commodities will likely affect world markets. It's just a staggering ripple through the economy.
Contact Pierre Bertrand at email@example.com.