The historic Texas drought has led to a record $5.2 billion in agricultural losses, making it the most costly drought on record, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service economists.

“The drought of 2011 will have a lasting impact on Texas agriculture,” said Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and a member of the Governor's Drought Preparedness Council.

“This drought is ongoing,” said David Anderson, AgriLife Extension livestock economist. “Further losses will continue if rainfall does not come soon to establish this year’s winter wheat crop and wheat grazing.”

The $5.2 billion in losses exceeds the previous record of $4.1 billion during the 2006 drought. “The losses also represent 27.7 percent of the average value of agricultural production over the last four years,” Anderson said.

The current drought losses have reached record levels in large part due to Texas farmers failing to cash in crops during times of high commodity prices, economists said. The state’s cattle producers continue to cull herds at historic levels and spend money on expensive supplemental feed.

“Livestock losses include the increased cost of feeding due to lack of pastures and ranges and market losses,” Anderson said. “Market losses include the impact of fewer pounds sold per calf and the impact of lower market prices due to the large number of cattle sold in a very short time period.”

The following are losses by commodity:

  • Livestock: $2.06 billion (includes $1.2 billion previously reported in May);
  • Lost hay production value: $750 million;
  • Cotton: $1.8 billion;
  • Corn: $327 million;
  • Wheat: $243 million;
  • Sorghum: $63 million.

To remain comparable to past drought loss estimates, the Aug. 17 drought loss estimates do not include losses to fruit and vegetable producers, horticultural and nursery crops, or other grain and row crops.

“In that regard, these estimates are considered conservative,” Anderson said.

The $5.2 billion total released Wednesday takes into account $1.2 billion in drought losses previously reported by AgriLife Extension in May, which were primarily livestock-related losses due to added supplemental costs and lost grazing.