Texas Agriculture Could See Record Losses

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its crop production report yesterday, and the numbers from the Lone Star state were grim. Because of the record drought and heat, Texas farmers and ranchers could face a record-breaking loss in agricultural damages. KUHF Health Science and Technology reporter Carrie Feibel has more.

Cotton is Texas’ number one cash crop, but this year’s harvest will drop 42 percent according to the USDA.

Travis Miller is professor of soil and crop sciences at Texas A&M.

“Many of the farmers will harvest nothing. It’s gone.”

Miller says the last big drought, in 2006, set a record for the largest dollar loss for Texas agriculture. But Miller says we’re on target to lose twice as much this year; the damages could top $8 billion dollars. 

“The corn crop is way down, wheat crop was way down, (and) virtually every crop other than perhaps rice is going to be significantly off because of the drought.”

Farmers who use pump and irrigation systems will harvest something.

But with groundwater levels dropping, farmers have been forced to decide which fields to water, and which ones to let die.

And then there are the cattle ranchers. Texas is usually the biggest beef producer in the country. But with no grass and little hay, the ranchers are sending their herds to the slaughterhouse.

Miller says consumers won’t see an immediate jump in beef prices, but they could see one in a few years. 

“There’s plenty of beef right now. It’s all being sold and processed. But when you take those mother cows off the ranch, you don’t have any calves next year; you don’t have any calves to put in the feedlot next year and so on. We’ll just be missing a whole generation maybe two generations of calves.”

Miller says farmers with crop insurance may be able to use that to cover their expenses, but they won’t see any profit this year.

Bio photo of Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...