Texas’ worst drought in a decade could rival 2011’s economic losses

Texas is experiencing its worst drought since 2011, with a hot summer and prolonged drought expected to deal a similar blow to the state’s economy, according to the Texas Comptroller’s Office.

Temperatures soared past 100 degrees for 40 days this summer, scorching the livelihoods of many Texas farmers.

In 2011, a drought cost the Texas economy nearly $7.62 billion in direct agricultural losses and nearly $17 billion in overall losses, according to the Texas Water Development Board.

The Court of Auditors’ office believes this year’s drought could have a similar impact.

“This current drought has spelled disaster for the state’s cotton industry,” Comptroller Glenn Hegar said in a statement. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that Texas produces about 40% of the country’s cotton.

“One estimate is that cotton producers concentrated in the Panhandle will lose about $2.1 billion in aggregate economic activity, excluding the losses covered by crop insurance,” Hegar said. “Although crop insurance helps producers make up for lost revenue, it doesn’t help businesses and consumers further down the supply chain.”

2022 will go down in the books as the 11th driest year in the past 128 years. From August 9-15, 68% of Texas was in extreme drought conditions and nearly 30% was in exceptional drought conditions, according to the US Drought Monitor.

Rain and cooler temperatures have since alleviated the drought conditions. As of this week, over 52% of the state was in a moderate to severe drought.

On the High Plains around Lubbock and Amarillo, the most productive of the state’s nine cotton-growing regions, experts at Texas Tech University are forecasting a $2.1 billion drop in this year’s crop.

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A South Texas cotton farmer said he will lose about $750 an acre this year on his 2,000-acre farm. John Robinson, a cotton economist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, said cotton abandonment — when farmers stop tending their crops — has hit a record 68% in Texas. That means this year’s cotton production is expected to be just 3.25 million bales, about 53% below Texas’ previous five-year average.

Texas is the top producer among 17 southern “Cotton Belt” states, stretching from Virginia to California. Cotton is planted from March to June and harvested from August to December.

Devastating droughts are part of Texas history, with the state experiencing a historic decade-long drought in the 1930s that earned the southern prairie region the nickname of the Dust Bowl.

From 1950 to 1957, the state’s agricultural industry lost $36 billion to drought, according to the Texas Water Development Board. According to the US Department of Agriculture, farmers suffered an estimated $15 billion in losses from 2010 to 2014.

Record-breaking drought in Texas results in over $2 billion in cotton crop losses

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